Category Archives: Recipes


The following was posted in July, 2009—since then I have often received inquiries and questions from like-minded friends and relatives (mostly the nieces) – asking about very basic recipes. I realize that something posted in July of 2009 might not be on the tip of the tongue in 2013—and I really want to get a master list made of all the blog entries to make it easier to find what you want. Meantime, here are some of the basic recipes. I suggest printing them and keeping the information in a notebook

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

PS if you have a favorite basic recipe that isn’t listed here, feel free to write and tell me about it!
Sandy @ sandychatter


This should have been before the last post. And I can’t find the original date I may have posted it – in 2009, I think. I know I have some photographs somewhere of some of my soups/tureens. Have to do a search for those too! –  sls


There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” Laurie Colwin, ‘Home Cooking’ (1988)

“From time immemorial, soups and broths have been the worldwide medium for utilizing what we call the kitchen byproducts or as the French call them, the ‘dessertes de la table’ (leftovers), or ‘les parties interieures de la bete’, such as head, tail, lights, liver, knuckles and feet.”                            –Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)


Beautiful Soup

BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beauti–FUL SOUP! 

After writing a poem about soup for my poetry group, I was asked to post something on my Blog about making homemade soups. Soup is probably my forte–what I do best under the best or even the worst of conditions; when the pantry is well stocked or when I am scrounging through the frig for any leftovers suitable for a soup pot. My sister Becky had a name for the latter; she called it “clean-out-the-refrigerator-soup”. But here’s the thing –You can buy dozens of cookbooks devoted to soups/stews/chowders/bisques–a soup by any other name…but you don’t really need any cookbook or recipe to make a good pot of soup. All you need are some ingredients. One of my favorites is a leftover pot roast. The next day I dice up any left over meat, discarding fat, bones, gristle. I put it into the pot with the leftover gravy- and add some water. Then I add whatever leftover vegetables are in the frig. If there AREN’T any, I begin peeling potatoes, onions, and carrots, dicing everything to add to the pot. When it’s a beef soup that is cooking, I love to add a cup of dry barley a few hours into the cooking period. It makes such a great hearty soup. And for a little more heartiness, I like to add about a cup of burgundy wine. But if you don’t have any barley, you can add some rice – leftover or otherwise. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Clam chowder is definitely hard to beat, especially if it’s made in a healthy way. This Hearty Clam Chowder from Eater’s Digest and JohnsHopkinsUniversity’s School of Public Health in Baltimore also contains only 380 milligrams of sodium, not bad for a “soup” dish.

Hearty Clam Chowder

Makes 9-10 servings

5 medium potatoes, pared and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup chopped green onions, including tops
1/2 cup diced celery
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 diced red or green bell pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 cups water
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of hot pepper sauce
Two 6-1/2 oz. cans of minced clams
1/2 cup flour
2 cups unsweetened soymilk

Place potatoes, green onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper and garlic in large pan. Mix in water, butter, salt, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce.

Bring to a boil, cover, and cook 15 minutes over medium heat or until potatoes are tender. Drain clams, reserving liquid and adding water, if necessary, to make 1 cup. Combine clam liquid with flour and stir to make a smooth paste. Pour flour paste into vegetables and cool, stirring, until mixture thickens. Add clams and soymilk. Continue cooking until chowder is hot.

My Clam Chowder:

5-6 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, shredded

1 cup sliced celery

1can evaporated milk (12 oz) (you can buy evaporated skim milk if you are counting calories)

1 can undiluted Cream of Mushroom Soup

2-4 cans of minced clams, including broth

Salt & pepper to taste

Fresh parsley, if you have it, otherwise dried parsley flakes

Cover the potatoes, carrots, celery and onion with water in a medium size pot until tender, then add the undiluted cream of mushroom soup and evaporated milk. Add the clams (I like a lot of clams. I see recipes using one 6 ounce can of clams and wonder – where’s the fun in that?) If you can get BIG cans of minced clams, like they have at Costco, all the better. Cook it all and add seasoning to taste.  If it’s not thick enough by dinner time, add instant potato flakes to make it thicker. Another great addition is clam stock which is sold in small round jars, about 6-8 ounce size. It will last a long time and adds infinite flavor to the clam chowder. Leftover mashed potatoes can be added to the pot or even some leftover carrots, if you have them. I also like adding fresh sliced mushrooms to the soup (but feel free to add a couple of cans of bits & pieces mushrooms if you have them around).

This soup is really good with hot garlic bread. I remember one time, my brother Bill & I returned from a trip to Oak Glen (California)  to buy apples – and I made a quick pot of clam chowder when we got back home. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. The apples became applesauce.

GINGERY PUMPKIN SOUP (this is very low in fat)

2 tsp vegetable oil

2 shallots, minced (2 TBSP)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger*

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 cups reduced-sodium defatted chicken broth

1 cup orange juice

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp minced orange zest

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

A pinch of ground cloves

2 TBSP minced fresh parsley (optional) -but if you don’t have fresh, use dried.

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (also optional)

Heat oil in soup pot over low heat; sauté the shallots, onions, and ginger in the oil until the onions are soft and golden. Be careful not to scorch the ginger. Add the pumpkin, orange juice, broth, salt, zest, pepper and cloves. Simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Garnish with parsley and pumpkin seeds, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

(Sandy’s cooknote: *Fresh ginger can be purchased in small jars and comes already finely minced. But if you buy fresh ginger–I have a tip for you. I’ve heard Rachel Ray tell viewers to freeze it. But I peel the ginger and pack it into a small clean jar and then cover it with sherry. It keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator this way and the sherry takes on the flavor of ginger and can also be used in other recipes.)


3 medium potatoes

1 quart milk

1 small onion, sliced

2 TBSP flour

3 TBSP butter or margarine

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp celery salad

few grains cayenne pepper

1 tsp chopped parsley

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Mash until smooth. Scald the milk with the onion, remove the onion and add the milk slowly to the potatoes, stirring constantly. Melt half the butter or margarine, add half the dry ingredients & stir until well mixed and add to the hot soup. Boil for 1 minute, strain and add the remaining butter and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes 6-8 servings (You could easily top this off with a bit of bacon and grated cheese!)


1 TBSP butter or margarine

1 cup chopped leeks or onions

1 cup diced red or green bell peppers

2 lbs (6 medium) potatoes, diced 1/2″

3 cups chicken broth

2 tsp dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 cup low fat milk

1 package (10 oz) frozen corn, thawed & drained

1/4 cup cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

In microwave, melt butter in a 2 to 3 qt casserole dish on high 1 minute. Add leeks and bell peppers; microwave on high 3 minutes. Stir in potatoes, broth, thyme and bay leaves; cover and cook on high 17 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves. Remove 4 cups cooked potato with a slotted spoon and put into blender; add milk and puree until smooth. Return mixture to dish. Stir in corn, parsley and cayenne; season with salt and pepper; heat on high for 3 minutes. (If desired, pass bowls of shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, drained canned clams or cubed cooked chicken or ham to stir into soup). Makes 6-8 servings.


3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

1 can cream of corn

1/2 to 3/4 bag frozen corn

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Black pepper

1 1/2 cups diced ham or 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, or 1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers, cut to bite size, plus a pinch of crushed rosemary. Put all ingredients in the slow cooker; stir and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.


3  slices bacon, diced

3 large potatoes peeled and cubed

5 cups water

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 Can (7 to 8 ounces) diced green chilies (buy the mild unless you are used to the hot or jalapenos and can handle the heat)

1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large skillet, brown bacon. Add potatoes and stir to coat. Add water, tomato sauce, onion and salt. Reduce heat to simmering and cook 1 hour. Divide chilies and cheese among bowls. Spoon hot soup over chilies and cheese and serve. Makes 6 servings.


(This is an old recipe from my mother’s collection)

2 ½ cups diced peeled potatoes (about 6 large)

2-4 cups water

1 TBSP salt

1-2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 TBSP butter

¼ tsp pepper (white is best but not necessary)

¼ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp garlic salt

4 cups milk

Place potatoes in large heavy pot with 2 cups water. Add salt and cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook potatoes until almost tender. While potatoes cook, sauté the onions and celery in 4 TBSP butter. Add pepper, celery salt & garlic salt. Stir onion mixture into the undrained potatoes. Add milk and more water if needed or desirable. Soup should be only slightly thick. Heat mix to boiling and reduce and simmer gently until flavors blend and mellow. Serve with either chopped chives or parsley afloat the steaming soup. Add a dollop of butter too. Serve with crisp crackers.

 Mexican Tortilla Soup

Weight Watchers style

8 ounces cooked, skinless, diced chicken

1 cup sliced or diced carrots

2 cups sliced thin celery

2 cups shredded or chopped cabbage

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup mild chilies

1 cup green beans

1 can whole kernel corn

½ cup diced bell peppers

1 qt tomato juice

1 qt V8 juice (or 2 quarts tomato juice)

1 qt tomatoes

2-3 chicken bouillon cubes

Water, if necessary, to make 6 quarts

Cook until all the vegetables are done. Add salt & pepper and any other seasonings

you like. I added chili powder to give it a little kick. You could also add tomato sauce or tomato paste. As listed, total is 16 points. One cup equals 1 ½ points

To make tortilla strips, cut 1 or 2 flour tortillas (I like to dry them out on a cookie sheet in the oven – but my old stove has a pilot light that is always “on” so there is just enough heat generated to dry out herbs or tortilla strips).

(Sandy’s cooknote:  Until a few years ago, we had never heard of Mexican Tortilla soup -I think it’s a relative newcomer to the culinary landscape – like cilantro. Twenty years ago you couldn’t find cilantro anywhere; nowadays, most supermarkets carry fresh cilantro and if you can’t find that you can buy freeze-dried cilantro. I have to admit cilantro is an acquired taste. As for Mexican tortilla soup, now you can find dozens of recipes. I began experimenting with making this soup, after the first time I tasted it in a Mexican restaurant. Living in California, we have a lot of exposure to good Mexican cuisine.

This next recipe is El Torito’s Tortilla Soup recipe from the LA Times SOS column 1990-91 and it may have changed since then. The point I am trying to make is that you can make Mexican tortilla soup a lot of different ways and if you leave out the shredded cheese, it’s a fairly low-calorie, low-fat recipe.




2 ½ cups fish stock

¼ cup tomato sauce

2 TBSP diced celery

2 TBSP diced onion

2 TBSP diced green pepper

2 TBSP diced tomato

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground oregano

1 bay leaf


¾ cup shredded Jack cheese

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cut tortillas into strips. Deep fry in hot oil until crisp*. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Combine fish stock, tomato sauce, celery, onion, green pepper, tomato, white pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and bay leaf in saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Bring to boil and simmer 20-30 minutes.  To serve, place tortilla strips in bowl.  Cover with shredded cheeses and add broth. Makes 4 servings.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: I would not, personally, deep fry tortilla strips – I always cut them into strips and dry them in my oven. I also prefer flour tortillas over corn. If you can’t oven dry them without heat, I would suggest – cut the tortillas into thin strips and spread them out on a cookie sheet covered with foil. Dry them on the lowest oven temperature until crisp. We also prefer to put the tortilla strips on TOP of the bowl of soup, not under it – and then top it off with a little grated cheese – and, if you have it, a slice of avocado makes a nice presentation. Tastes good, too. Also, if you don’t have fish stock and don’t know how to make it – use a vegetable stock or even chicken broth made with bouillon cubes. It all works. One of these days I will write something about making your own basic stocks – which can be frozen until you are ready to use them).

Here’s one more recipe for Tortilla Soup and it’s pretty simple and straightforward:


10 CUPS strong chicken broth

2 cups diced onion

¼ cup oil

6 cloves garlic

2 cups cooked chicken

2 tsp ground cumin

1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies

1 15-oz can stewed tomatoes

1 ½ tsp salt

½ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

¼ cup grated cheese per bowl

tortilla chips or corn chips

In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add broth and other ingredients except cheese; bring to a boil and simmer at least 30 minutes. Before filling bowls, put a few tortilla chips or corn chips in the bottom of the bowl. Add soup and top it off with a bit of grated cheese.

T.G.I. Friday’s French Onion Soup

3-4 medium to large onions

3 cans of beef broth


Worcestershire sauce


Sargento cheese (Italian blend) 8 oz. bag (recommended)

French baguette

2 bay leaves

Dash of garlic powder

Dash of both salt and pepper

Slice the onions into rings and sauté in butter in a skillet until tender. Turn crock pot on to low and put in the cans of beef broth, bay leaves, dash of garlic powder and salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and 3/4 cup of water. When the onions and butter mixture is tender then also add them to the crock pot. Cover and cook for at least 3-5 hours on low. At this point you may want to taste the soup and see if you would like it a little weaker–if so add a little water or chicken broth. Also, at this time remove the bay leaves and discard them.  When about ready to serve, slice bread into thin slices and toast in oven on 350 or in toaster oven until just crusty. Put toasted slices (1-3) in bowl and cover with the cheese (adjust cheese to your liking). Then cover bread and cheese with hot soup. The cheese will melt and the bread will rise to the top. Source: The Secret Recipe Forum:

(Sandy’s cooknote: Personally I like to add about a cup of burgundy wine to my French onion soup. But then I like Burgundy wine in a lot of my soups and stews. I have a big jug of Burgundy wine in the pantry that is used exclusively to cook with).

Here is my favorite recipe for Cream of Broccoli Soup.  When you buy a head of broccoli, peel the stems and cut them up and cook them along with the florets.  After dinner, put the cut stems and the leftover florets into a blender and puree. You need about 2 cups of puree to make the soup. (Save a couple cooked florets to add to the soup bowls)
Then, next day, melt 3 TBSP butter in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Blend in 3 TBSP flour; add 2 cups milk, and 2 cups broth (chicken, beef or vegetable). Heat, stirring until mixture boils; turn heat to low.  Blend in the broccoli puree, and add 1 tsp salt and a dash of white pepper.

Optional: pinch each of cardamom* and mace or ¼ cup grated mild Cheddar or Gruyére.
Using the same proportions of butter, flour, liquid and puree – you can also use this same recipe for cauliflower, onions or leeks, or cabbage. For carrot or green pea soup, use only 2 TBSP Butter and 2 TBSP flour – adding 1 tsp grated orange rind, or 1 tsp of nutmeg for flavoring.  This soup lends itself to most any vegetable, or combination of vegetables, that can be pureed and can be enhanced with your favorite seasoning.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: Cardamom! If you don’t have this spice in your kitchen cupboard or the spice rack – you are missing out. Cardamom–per Spice Islands–enriches diverse cuisines from Indian to Scandinavia. Its exotic flavor complements sweet cookies, breads and pastries as well as savory meat stews and curries. One of my favorite ice-box cookie recipes is a cardamom cookie. And from Google: “Once considered one of the world’s most precious spices—reserved for holidays, weddings and other special occasions—cardamom is captivating a new generation of admirers. With a hint of clove, the spiciness of ginger, and overtones of vanilla and citron, cardamom can add layers of complex, subtle flavor to any dish…”)

I thought I’d close this with MY poem about soup.


What is as fine as a bowl of soup

In a tureen, carried hot to the table,

Or a beef stew simmered with veggies and meat,

As wondrous as an old Aesop fable;

I love noodle soup or a tomato bisque,

My chili falls into this category,

French onion soup with melted cheese,

Russian Borscht served in all its beet glory.

Mushroom soup! PepperPot!

Or a Consomme!

Won Ton Soup! Morel Soup!

Cream of Pea and crackers on a tray!

Black Bean Soup! Cabbage Soup!

Or a pot of New England Chowder!

(Not for me Manhattan style–

For that I’d have to take a powder!)

Perhaps some Mulligatawny Soup,

Or some Minestrone!

I’d even eat some Bouillabaisse,

As long as it’s not boney!

Bring me a bowl of Orleans gumbo, 

Or any soup that’s bold,

Or let us have gazpacho that’s

Always served up cold.

Serve me cream of celery soup!

Carrot soup with Curry!

Bring me soups that cook all day

But dish up in a hurry;

Serve me spicy peanut soup

Or turkey soup with rice–

I’d gladly eat green lentil soup

But meatball soup is also nice.

Soup for breakfast! Soup for lunch!

Soup for a late night supper;

Let me have a cup of soup,

For a pick-me-upper.

Let me have War Won-Ton Soup,

Or Tortilla soup that’s spicy,

Let me have a cockle soup

Or lobster bisque that’s pricey!

Serve me cock-a-leekie soup

Or Egg Drop soup from China,

Serve it fancy, serve it plain,

I’m never going to mind-a,

Soups can be hearty or else light -

Feed one or feed a troop -

I’ll never tire or get enough

Of delicious homemade soup.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Happy Cooking! Sandy





(originally posted on my blog in 2009)

It started innocently with my sister requesting a recipe. I thought she said “pea soup” But I learned the next day, I misunderstood. She was making a vegetable soup.  I can’t imagine how I heard “pea” when she said “vegetable”.

While waiting for her to arrive at my place, I looked up, and copied a slew of pea soup recipes. She didn’t want pea, she wanted vegetable. Oh, well, I said. Who really needs a recipe for making vegetable soup?  You just toss whatever you have on hand into a pot, add water or some cans of vegetable broth – and voila! You have vegetable soup. Then, of course, I began searching through my soup files for vegetable soup recipes and, admittedly – there are a lot of varieties.

Then, today, I wanted to use up a lot of leftovers in the vegetable crisper so I decided to make chicken/vegetable/tortilla soup, I had some leftover chicken breasts, about half a head of cabbage, plenty of carrots and celery–I also had some slightly old flour tortillas that would work nicely in thin strips dried in the oven–and a package of taco seasoning mix for flavor. (My reasoning being: I am going on vacation in a week, and anything in the refrigerator that doesn’t get cooked, thrown out, or frozen – will be a soggy decayed mess when I get back).  My chicken/vegetable/tortilla soup has turned out very nicely.

What you do is, fill a bowl with soup; sprinkle on some dried tortilla strips, and top it off with a sprinkling of grated cheese. A slice of avocado is also nice if you happen to have some on hand. It was a nice variation of my sister Becky’s clean-out-the-refrigerator-soup.

But getting back to vegetable soup – vegetable beef, vegetable chicken, plain vegetable soup – there are a lot of recipes from which to choose  (My sister pointed out – I didn’t have a recipe for vegetable soup on my BLOG. MY BAD. Mea Culpa.  So, brace yourself because I am about to rectify that omission.

This first one from my card file is very old, written in real ink and the card has yellowed. (I collect old, filled recipe boxes so sometimes there’s no telling where some of my recipes came from. No directions are provided.  (Do you really need directions to make soup?)

To make this vegetable soup, you will need:


2 quarts quartered tomatoes

2 dozen medium carrots, sliced

2 quarts cut green beans

2 cups chopped celery

½ cup chopped parsley

1 small head cabbage, chopped

4 small onions, chopped

½ cup rice or barley

2 quarts hot water


Sandy’s Cooknote: I suspect this recipe was for canning vegetable soup.  But in today’s world? Make it up and freeze it in batches suitable for your household. I absolutely love the Gladlock 2-quart rectangular plastic containers. Once you freeze the soup, pop it out of the plastic container and put it into a Ziplock bag, then label it with a black marker. At my house we call these “bricks”. (I trade my bricks to girlfriend MJ, in exchange for doing all my sewing and mending. I-do-not-sew.  It’s a satisfactory barter system. She doesn’t like to cook).

And when a recipe for vegetable soup just provides you with the innocuous direction of “meat” – you can use a pound or two of stewing meat, almost any kind of beef cut – but my favorite meat to add to any vegetable soup is a 7-bone or chuck roast, already cooked and presented in one meal – then the leftovers cut up and turned into soup. Leftover gravy from the roast and any leftover vegetables can also be added.

Here is another old recipe called SKINNY SOUP for the simple reason that it’s made up mostly of vegetables, some high fiber, with a little leftover turkey meat, chopped up – if you have it on hand. If not, leave it out. It will be fewer calories.


To make SKINNY SOUP, you will need:

3 stalks celery, diced

3 large carrots, diced

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 sweet onion, diced

½ head cabbage, sliced

½ pound fresh or frozen cauliflower cut up

2 medium potatoes, diced

1 cup frozen peas

3 cups water

2 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped (optional)

1 46-oz can tomato juice, preferably low sodium

2 TBSP fresh dill or 1 tsp dried

2 TBSP fresh basil or 1 tsp dried

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp ground pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping (optional)

Prepare all vegetables. Use a large soup pot. Add all vegetables, turkey (if using), water, tomato juice and spices. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered 45 minutes to an hour or until vegetables reach your desired tenderness. Top with  Parmesan cheese when presenting in a soup bowl.  Makes 10 servings.


This recipe was sent to me by Lisa, a penpal who lives in Ithaca, New York. To make Lisa’s Three Ingredient Vegetable soup, all you will need is:

1 16-OZ pkg Bird’s eye frozen mixed vegetables*

1 46-oz can tomato juice

1 3-oz pkg ramen oriental noodles with beef flavoring

Mix vegetables and tomato juice in a 5 quart pot. Heat to boiling. Add noodles and    flavor packet. Simmer 15 minutes; stirring occasionally.  8 servings.  What could be easier?

*Sandy’s cooknote: Canned or frozen mixed vegetables are my culinary best friend; I like to keep a lot of them on hand; they’re great in all kinds of soups and stews.


To make ALL NEW BASIC SOUP, you will need:

5 medium carrots cut into 1” slices

3 medium celery stalks, sliced

3 large onions, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 cans (28 oz) tomatoes in juice

1 small head cabbage, sliced thin

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1” slices*

2 pkgs (5 oz each) baby spinach leaves (or use 1 10-oz pkg chopped spinach

½ cup fresh parsley or ¼ cup dried parsley

2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

12 cups water

Coat an 8-qt pot with Pam. Over medium-high heat, add carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Cook 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and their liquid, breaking up the tomatoes with a fork or side of a spoon. Add the cabbage, parsnips, bouillon  cubes, salt & pepper and water. Heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until all vegetables are tender. Add more salt & pepper if desired. Makes about 25 cups.

*Sandy’s cooknote: I am not fond of parsnips. Ditto turnips. I would use a couple of medium size potatoes instead.

This next one is titled Mexican Vegetable Soup and appears to be a promotional recipe card from French’s since it called for an envelope of French’s Chili-O Mix.  Use a package of what ever chili seasoning mix you prefer.

To make MEXICAN VEGETABLE SOUP, you will need:

2 pounds beef soup meat plus soup bone (if you can find a soup bone nowadays! – back in the day, my childhood, you could get a soup bone from the butcher free)

2 TBSP salad oil

1 envelope chili seasoning mix

6 cups water

1 1-lb can tomatoes

1 can beef broth

1 1-lb can cream style corn

1 small summer squash, peeled and sliced

Cut meat in 1” cubes. Brown in oil in soup kettle or Dutch oven type pan. Add chili seasoning mix, water, tomatoes and broth; cover and simmer 1 ½ hours or until meat is tender. Add corn, carrots and squash; cover again and simmer 30 minutes. Remove soup bone. 6-8 servings.

Sandy’s cooknote: If you can’t lay your hands on a soup bone, don’t worry about it. Just leave it out. And if you don’t have any canned beef broth – dissolve 1 or 2 beef bouillon cubes in hot water and use that instead (TIP: Always keep chicken and beef bouillon cubes on hand!)

The following is a simple vegetable beef soup that is made with ¾ of a pound of extra lean ground beef. Three quarters of a pound? Why such an odd amount? I would use a pound of ground beef.  This recipe would be easy enough to throw together for a quick dinner – ready in an hour; serve with crackers or garlic bread.


To make VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP, you will need:

3 medium carrots, chopped

2 large potatoes, cut into small cubes

1 medium onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, with tops, chopped

½ tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

About 3 cups shredded green cabbage (1/2 head)

¾ (or 1 lb) extra lean ground beef

1 quart tomato juice (low sodium if you are watching your salt)
dashes of Tabasco sauce (optional)

Combine carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, cabbage, ground beef (uncooked), salt and pepper in a large soup pot. Add enough water just to cover the vegetables and ground beef. Add tomato juice last and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer at least 1 hour. Meat should be cooked and vegetables tender. Stir soup occasionally to break up the ground beef. Add a few squirts of Tabasco sauce if you want to give it a little zing.

Makes 10 servings.

This next recipe contains uncooked broken spaghetti, which is a twist – but reminded me that my sister Becky, whenever she made her clean-out-the-refrigerator-soup, would chop up any leftover spaghetti and add it to the pot near the end of cooking time.

To make MULTI-VEGETABLE SOUP you will need:

2 TBSP butter or margarine

2 TBSP cooking oil

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup thinly sliced zucchini

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

1 large onion, chopped

2 beef bouillon cubes

2 tsp salt

8 cups boiling water

1 tsp Accent (optional)

1 can (16 oz) stewed tomatoes

¼ cup uncooked broken spaghetti

½ tsp thyme

Heat the butter or margarine and oil in a pot.  Add carrots, zucchini, celery, cabbage and onion; cook uncovered abut 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the bouillon cubes, water, salt and Accent (if you are using it) to the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, about 30 minutes.  Stir in the stewed tomatoes, spaghetti and thyme.  Cook 20 minutes.  Serve hot from a tureen. You can serve with a bowl of shredded parmesan cheese- personally, I like to have some hot garlic bread as an accompaniment.   Makes about 2 quarts soup.

This next recipe sounds like something someone created when the vegetable garden was overflowing.  You could make the soup with or without meat – if without, add a few beef bouillon cubes for flavoring.

To make GRANDMA’S HARVEST SOUP, you will need:

1 ½ pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cubed

1 tbsp vegetable oil

10 medium fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut up

2 cups tomato juice

2 medium size onions, chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp pepper

2 tsp salt (optional)

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

5 carrots, cleaned and sliced

2 cups frozen or fresh corn

2 cups frozen or fresh green beans

2 cups frozen peas

3 ribs celery, sliced

1 cup sliced butternut squash

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (or 1/8 cup of dried)

1 tsp sugar

In a Dutch oven, brown meat in oil over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, tomato juice, onions, garlic, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour.

Now add potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans, peas, and celery. Cover and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Add squash and simmer 10-15 minutes more or until meat and vegetables are tender. Stir in parsley and sugar.  Makes 8-12 servings.

Sandy’s cooknote: Well, I think that’s enough of vegetable soup–it should give you something to work with. Don’t be afraid to use what you have on hand. And when you are chopping up celery or carrots (I like to have the Food Network on while I am puttering around in the kitchen), chop extra and freeze it in 1 cup portions in plastic ziplock sandwich bags–then when you are ready to make some soup, you already have some of the ingredients on hand and can just toss them into the pot. My sister Becky used to dump small amounts of leftover vegetables into a large plastic container and kept it in the freezer for making pots of soup.

appy Cooking!



My bad! I posted an article for you about lists and cookbooks and then neglected to write something else for ten days. My excuse is just that I have been taking down Christmas decorations, et al, which took about a week, and then a few days ago, two of my grandchildren and I went to the mountains to visit friends for a few days. Kids were elated – it began to snow on Thursday and came down steadily for some hours—they were hoping we’d get snowed in. Grammy was hoping – not. I wanted to get home to my two dogs and one cat on
Friday and get back into some kind of routine.

Well, I’ve had a stack of cookbooks at my elbow for a couple of weeks with the intention of sharing these with you. Cookbook reviews always make a good topic to write about, don’t you agree? I have so many cookbooks I’ve wanted to share with other cookbook aficionados that stacks of these books have been piling up throughout the house. So, let’s start with one of these – first on my list is ]

AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK/712 FAVORITE RECIPES FROM MAIN STREET U.S.A. edited by Barbara Greeman. This big thick cookbook with plastic spiral binding is designed to lay flat on a counter surface anywhere in the book. The recipes are from church suppers, church socials, state and county fairs, family & friends. I think it  caught my eye when I was searching through my “Americana” collection a few months ago. AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK was published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers and distributed by Workman Publishing Company.

In the introduction, Barbara Greenman confesses, “I wish I could say this idea was mine! All the credit and thanks go to my publisher, my editor and their team. Yes, I  provide them the raw material, but from it they have spun gold. Here it is, AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK, highlighting 712 recipes from the more than 2, 000 sent to us by America’s churches and state and county fairs. It is the perfect cookbook for our times…”

Truer words were never spoken. Barbara says that “Excellence was the criteria for inclusion in this new collection. Instead of five chicken salad recipes and seven meatloaf recipes, we offer the best of each category and a wide variety of              food…”  And anyone who has collected club-and-church cookbooks for any length of time (in my case over forty years) knows that duplicate or very similar recipes often fill many of the pages of a community cookbook. The persons collecting the recipes don’t want to leave anyone out, so every one of the recipes is included even at the risk of being repetitive.

I checked the back of the cookbook to see if a list of contributing cookbooks was offered – while they weren’t, a list of the contributing churches (54 of them) was provided.  The following page provides a long list of state and county fairs whose recipes were provided on the pages of AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK—sixty-five of them, including my favorite Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, California—the greatest difficulty with a cookbook such as this one is trying to decide what to check out first – the recipes? The contributors? Looking for a favorite recipe? To see if your hometown is represented?  Well, with over seven hundred recipes that will keep you occupied for a while. And at the risk of being even more repetitive, cookbook people read cookbooks the way other people read novels. No lie. I have a stack of cookbooks and a stack of novels on and next to and inside my nightstand at any given moment. A good way to read a cookbook is keeping a pad of those little square post-its on the nightstand next to your bottle or glass of water, a pen, any medication you take at night and the telephone. (I am often in bed and getting warm when I realize I am missing one of the above items (usually my bottle of water) and have to get back up and go to the kitchen to get it. Brody, my Jack Russell-Chihuahua new addition to the family always feels obligated to get up and follow me to the kitchen no matter how comfy he has gotten too. I am not sure whether he does this to protect me, or in the hopes that I may drop something, like a piece of bacon.

I know I am not alone in marking pages with post-it notes because I have acquired a lot of cookbooks at sales that are festooned with dozens of post it notes. I then remove their post-it notes to add my own post-it notes.  But, I digress (as you may have noticed, I have a tendency of doing this) – let me tell you about the categories of recipes you will find in AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK. Along with the Introduction and a Table of Equivalents (so handy to have), you will find recipes for













and a list of contributors.  I must confess, the layout for this cookbook is unlike any I have seen before. I do approve of Breakfast and Brunch coming first, though. The cookbook starts out with a generous collection of muffin recipes that is sure to please any cook and anyone waiting for muffins for breakfast or brunch. I love muffins – muffins were the very first thing I learned how to bake around the age of ten. Choose from blueberry muffins, blueberry-peach muffins, blackberry corn muffins, hearty oatmeal raisin muffins or cranberry muffins, just to name a few. When in doubt, just check through the array of muffins to find something corresponding with what you have in the frig or pantry (which is how I learned to cook from Ida Bailey Allen’s Service Cookbook).     Muffins are followed by Scones and French Toast recipes, including an Apple Cinnamon French Toast that I can’t wait to try. Then there are recipes for pancakes, which includes an Apple Cider Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup—a good one to share with my penpal in Oregon, who has an orchard of half a dozen or so apple trees.  Next are recipes for coffee cakes; a post-it note has been attached to the Overnight Coffee Cake recipe. This is just a slight sampling of Breakfast and Brunch Recipes – there are fritters and buns, doughnuts and hushpuppies, bagels and omelets, frittatas and breakfast casseroles—in all, thirty three pages of Breakfast and Brunch recipes, enough to fill up one of those little recipe booklets – but this is in AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK/712 FAVORITE RECIPES FROM MAIN STREET U.S.A and can be at your fingertips any day, any time.

Chapter 2 is APPETIZERS.  Let me share something with you about appetizers, or as the French say, “hors d’oeuvres.”  I have a couple of shelves full of appetizer/hors d’oeuvres cookbooks.  I also have several recipe boxes full of appetizer/hors d’oeuvres recipes. The reason I have acquired so many of these perfect-for-party recipes is that we used to have some pretty big parties several times a year. By “we” I mean Bob and myself and my sons and their wives. After some years of throwing parties for which I would take off work and spend three days cooking in the kitchen, I made a startling (startling to me, at least) discovery – appetizers. Hors d’oeuvres. You can make a lot of them up in advance. You can buy a lot of different kinds of appetizers in the freezer cases at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. When someone asks what they can bring to a party you can reply “your favorite appetizer—or a bottle of wine” I discovered that these tidbits, hot or cold, are perfect party food – a guest can pile different ones onto a plate and walk around chatting with other guests, go back to more if they want to and try some of the other appetizer/hors d’oeuvres. Well! in AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK/712 FAVORITE RECIPES FROM MAIN STREET U.S.A, Barbara Greeman has filled twenty three pages with appetizer/hors d’oeuvre recipes, ranging from a Horseradish Cheese Ball with Crackers to Mexican Chicken Bites, from Spinach Cheese Squares to Green Chili Pie, from Cocktail Meatballs to various dips.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. This is one fantastic cookbook, published in 2011. I was unable to find it listed under but has the book for $7.98 new, from Amazon, or $3.16 for a pre-owned copy from a private vendor.   A lot of cookbooks come and go, but this is one, I predict, that you will keep within reach.

Happy cooking and happier cookbook collecting!



It started with mixing up a batch of oatmeal cookie dough last night. I got that mixed and decided I had enough for the day/night so I covered the dough with a kitchen towel and a plate.  First thing this morning, I thought – I need to get these cookies baked (I didn’t want to refrigerate the cookie dough—I find it affects the spreading of the cookies too much (that is, they don’t always spread enough) and then I thought oh, I need to get my pomegranate jelly made. (Reason I was in such a hurry this morning is because I am having a tree-trimming party tomorrow and serving Cincinnati chili to my guests – mostly young adults—but wanted to have something for each of them to take home—like a jar of jelly!).

I had four big jars of pomegranate juice made up from the fifty-something pomegranates Kelly & I picked from the tree belonging to a friend of his. A word about pomegranates: this is not the easiest fruit to work with.  Bob used to ream them with an electric juicer which was very messy and also very wasteful. I did some Google searching a few years ago and decided that instructions for “shelling” the fruit under water sounded best to me. So, I have been doing it this way for a few years. You cut an X in one end of the fruit and then hold it under cold water and break the pieces apart, removing the tough skin and membranes, leaving just the ruby red fruit. Strain and bag into ziplock bags – you are ready to eat the pomegranate or do something else with it. I have found  that mashing it with my hands, while it’s in the ziplock bag, works pretty well. You can use a rolling pin or you can just press down hard on the bag with the palm of your hand, until the juices begin to run. Then you strain it and you have pomegranate juice (You can also buy pomegranate juice in the supermarket nowadays but it’s kind of expensive) – besides which, I live in California where pomegranates grow. In our Arleta house, we had 3 pomegranate trees but it was a battle between us and the squirrels, to see who got the most fruit.  It’s helpful to have a friend with a pomegranate tree!  (Since moving to the high desert in 2008, we have planted 2 pomegranate trees (which the nursery insists on calling bushes).

Well, it took me about 2 weeks to “do” most of the pomegranates. I gave a few of the fruit to my sister for my nephew to eat, and I saved four of them to give to my Oregon penpal when she comes to visit. (Kelly and I weighed the basket of fruit – I had 51 pounds of pomegranates).

One of my blog readers was interested in making pomegranate jelly and I winged a response, not having made it for a few years and – to tell the truth, I’m not sure I even have directions for making pomegranate jelly written down anywhere.  So, Sharon, this one’s for you.

First, I buy the Ball low sugar/no sugar powdered pectin at Walmart. I think Sure-Jel also makes a low sugar/no sugar product but it’s kind of expensive for my pocket book. (It shocks me how much the price of pectin has gone up over the past few years). But Ball makes a product that Walmart sells (probably other places do as well) – and 3 tablespoons of this powder is equal to one of the old boxes of powdered low sugar/no sugar pectin.

When you are ready to make the jelly, let the juice come to room temperature (otherwise the powdered pectin will clump). Measure 4 cups of juice into a large pot (I use my 5 qt stainless pressure cooker pot – leave the lid off – and give the juice just a squirt of lemon juice. Add three tablespoons of powdered pectin and give it a whisk or two to dissolve. Add half a teaspoon of butter to the juice (this reduces the foam or scum or whatever you want to call it, from forming. I had NO foam or scum to skim off the juice when it had become jelly). Now you are ready to start heating the juice over a medium to high flame on the stove—have ready 2 cups of sugar and 4 8-oz jelly jars that have been washed in soapy water and then scalded in boiling water.  (OR – if you don’t plan on sealing the jars of jelly but just want to keep it in the frig to eat, use any small jars you may have saved – wash them well and have them ready to pour the jelly into – OR if you don’t want to seal the jars but don’t want to eat it immediately – you can do the old fashioned way of melting some paraffin wax to pour on top of the jelly once it has been poured into a jar.  Too much information? A fourth option is to freeze your jelly in some plastic containers but plan to eat it within a few months.

I am telling you all of this because maybe you don’t want to get that involved in jelly making. I have been making jellies and jams since my kids were toddlers (a very long time ago) and back then, I poured the jelly or jam into washed, scalded baby food jars – with a little melted paraffin on top, the lid replaced over that – it worked reasonably well. (I didn’t poison anyone). Eventually I graduated to really canning and it became a hobby (in fact, Bob & I entered canned foods into the Los Angeles county fair for about a decade and were proud of our blue ribbons!) – a case of canning jars will cost you about $9.00. the 8-ounce size jars are what you want.  (However, when I am canning jams or jellies JUST for family, I often put it into pint-size jars—especially when I am making strawberry jam and even when strawberries are in season, you are still paying for the berries, the sugar, the pectin, et al). When my sons were young boys, I would can grape jelly in QUART jars. I kid you not. It was the only kind of jelly they all liked.  (You know what they say about a prophet in his own town—it’s the same thing with a mother who likes making unique and unusual jellies and jams—your friends will love you for it, but your children won’t taste it for love or money. The first thing they always say to me is “What’s IN this?” (They still do).

If you are using canning jars, put the flat lids in a small pot, add water, and bring them to a boil. Let them cook for about 5 minutes and then just keep the water hot. This softens the seal on the lids so that when you put them onto the jelly jars and screw on the rings, you will get a firm seal.  I just wash the rings in soapy water and have them ready and waiting.

And while my sons like the pomegranate jelly, grape is probably still their universal favorite. But I can tell you unequivocally that my friends’ children LOVE my pomegranate jelly and if I give each one of them just one 8 ounce jar of jelly, you would think they’d gotten the queen’s jewels.

Well, I digress. Where were we?  You were heating up the 4 cups of pomegranate juice that you have doused with a squirt of lemon juice and the three tablespoons of powdered pectin and tossed in half a teaspoon of butter – and brought it to a boil. When it comes to a hard boil (a boil that can’t be stirred down), then dump in 2 cups of sugar all at one time. Now, the amount of sugar you add is entirely up to you. If you want a sweeter jelly, add 3 cups of sugar. If you want it to be tarter, reduce it to 1 or 1 ½ cups of sugar. But I find that 2 cups of sugar is perfect – it’s a little tart but the flavor of the pomegranate is there. The beauty of using a low sugar/no sugar pectin is that you control the amount of sugar that goes into it.

Stir the contents of the pot to dissolve the sugar, and bring it back to a boil.  Boil it for a minute or two – when you dip in a spoon and lift it out of the pot, the jelly should “sheet” off instead of just dripping off. However, that being said, the jelly I was making this morning, didn’t “sheet” off and I probably over-boiled the first batch—what I discovered is that the juice thickens into jelly as it cools. I was really uncertain that it was going to work right until it cooled – and every jar had thickened into a nice jelly. I hope this isn’t too much information!

Once I got into the rhythm of the jelly making, I was off and running – I poured the jelly from the pot into a quart size glass measuring cup to pour into the jelly jars that are hot and waiting—it’s much easier to pour this way and it avoids drips. You should wipe the rims of the jars off with a clean wet cloth to make sure nothing has spilled, place the lids on the jars, then the rings and tighten the rings (another new discovery – a pair of inexpensive rubber gloves are SO great for doing all of this without burning your fingers).  Now, most instruction booklets tell you to put the filled jars into a boiling water bath for 5 minutes but I have been skipping this step – the jars have been boiled, the lids have been boiled, the jelly has been boiled – I figure if the jars SEAL they are ok. You will know they have sealed if you hear a “ping” as each jar cools and forms a vacuum. The lid should be flat – if there is something like a bubble on the lid, it hasn’t sealed properly – just put it into the frig and use it in a reasonable amount of time.

Well, another way of learning how to do all of this is to buy the Ball blue book of canning and preserving – also sold at Walmart where the canning supplies are.  I began collecting canning/preserving/jelly and jam making cookbooks about twenty years ago and love some of the very old Ball and Kerr canning booklets from years ago.

So, Sharon, I hope this works for you.  And here is my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, the one I was making this morning while making pomegranate jelly at the same time.

To make my favorite oatmeal cookies you will need

2 cups sifted flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

Dash ground cloves

2 2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar (or a combination of white sugar and brown sugar to make two and two thirds cups)

4 eggs

1 ½ cups butter flavored Crisco shortening

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups uncooked oats (can be a combination of old fashioned or quick – I like old fashioned)

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Stir together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Now add shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in oats, raisins and nuts. Drop by heaping teaspoon onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 12 minutes (I start checking at 10 minutes). Makes about 6 dozen depending on size.  Avoid overbaking!

Happy Holiday Baking and Jelly making!



I began collecting cookbooks (primarily church-and-club type) over 45 years ago. Soon after, I discovered a “manuscript” cookbook – or more accurately, it discovered me. I was rummaging around in a used book store in Hollywood when the owner said “I have something interesting in a cookbook – let me show it to you”. It was a small 3-ring binder with an old leather cover and it was filled with hand written recipes as well as hundreds of clipped-and-pasted on recipes. Its owner had kept her notebook cookbook for decades – and I bought it for about $10.00 (which doesn’t sound like much, now, but at the time I was raising my family and it was a lot) – but I had to have it. Over the years, I’ve found a few more manuscript-type cookbooks but they’re really scarce. My theory is that this type of cookbook remains in the family. I don’t believe that the owner of that first manuscript cookbook, whose name, I discovered, was Helen, had any children. Surely, one’s children would never allow something so precious to end up in a used book store.

Then I became interested in recipe boxes when I found an old, green, wooden recipe box in Ventura, California, at an antique store. It was packed with the former owner’s collection of recipes. I was so intrigued by this type of collection – what I think of as a kitchen diary – that I began a diligent search for filled recipe boxes. These are just about as scarce and hard to find as handwritten cookbooks. Often, you can find recipe boxes – in thrift stores or antique shops –but they are usually empty. I think the storekeepers don’t imagine anyone would be interested in the contents, which are often scrappy little pieces of paper, recipes clipped from the back of a bag of macaroni or flour, recipes written on a piece of envelope, – but over the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve managed to find quite a few of these filled recipe boxes. One time my niece, who lives in Palm Springs, found three of them for me at a yard sale; it helps that so many people know about my fascination with old, filled recipe boxes.

Another time, a girlfriend of mine was telling me about helping a friend of hers clear out her mother’s apartment, after her mother had passed away. “Oh,” I said “Ask your friend if her mother had any recipe boxes”. She did – and I got it. She also had, and gave to me, several cookbook autographed by cookbook author Mike Roy, with whom her mother had been acquainted. On yet another occasion, I was given half a dozen filled recipe boxes that had belonged to the aunt of a woman I worked with.

Now, I collect all types of recipe boxes but the ones I cherish the most are those filled with someone else’s recipe collection. One of these boxes is so old that the contents are extremely fragile and bits of paper disintegrate whenever you handle them.

Yard sales where I live rarely yield such treasures although once we were at an estate sale and I happened to find a cardboard box – shaped like a file drawer – filled with handwritten recipe cards on oversize cards, about a 4×6” size. I was able to buy it for $2.00. Part of the charm, or intrigue, of owning these boxes is going through them piece by piece, and trying to learn something about the person who compiled the box. I leave all of these boxes exactly “as is” because I feel to change them would change the integrity of the collection.

What makes these recipe boxes so enticing? I think old recipe boxes, filled with someone’s collection of recipes, are a window into our culinary past. Eventually, no doubt, someone else will discover these treasures, too, but in the meantime, I like to think that what I have is a fairly unique collection.

– Sandra Lee Smith


You have to stop and wonder, sometimes, about the origins of some recipes. I can imagine how some of them might have come about—I can picture myself making a chocolate cake and suddenly realizing I don’t have enough eggs or oil. I might think hmmmm, mayonnaise is made up from oil and eggs—I wonder if I can just substitute half a cup of mayo for the missing oil and eggs—and voila! I’ve just created chocolate mayonnaise cake. This makes perfect sense to me. And in case you are wondering, the recipe is very good. Equally delicious are chocolate mayonnaise cookies—I took them to work a few times and was almost embarrassed to divulge the recipe. What could be easier? Chocolate cake mix, some mayonnaise and one or two other ingredients.

But sauerkraut cake? Somehow I just can’t picture the lady of the kitchen thinking, gee, I don’t have any coconut for my coconut cake—maybe I’ll just open up a can of sauerkraut and rinse it off and no one will ever know it isn’t coconut…I certainly wouldn’t risk ruining a recipe I had already started, with an ingredient that is so totally off the wall. And what about avocado cake or pinto bean cake? What were those culinary artists THINKING?

You have to wonder about tomato soup cake too (granted, it’s delicious) – but whose idea was it to throw in a can of tomato soup to make a spice cake? Was it someone experimenting in the Campbell Soup Kitchen, or a housewife with a little too much time on her hands? (No one seems to know the origin of tomato soup cake although it does appear in some of the older Campbell Soup cookbooks. Note: the oldest reference I have found for tomato soup cake is in a 1940 cookbook.

There are a lot of off the wall (i.e. weird) recipes. Enough that in 1977 a local (Southern California) radio show host, Geoff Edwards of KMPC in Los Angeles, put together a cookbook of wacky recipes and titled it “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING COOKBOOK”. Listeners sent in the recipes. All of the above were included—although I have seen them all elsewhere—and then some. There is even an authentic recipe for stuffed Roast Camel. Geoff said it was served sometimes at Bedouin weddings. Ew, Ew. That ranks right up there with Spam mousse, as far as I am concerned. I’ll take your word for it that it’s delicious. (Per Google, Tang is a sweet and tangy, orange-flavored, non-carbonated soft drink can be found at Tops, Wegmans, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aide, Walmart, and Target—so it’s STILL available.)

As for tomato soup cake AKA Mystery Cake this appears to have originated in the 1920s when cake was usually topped off with Philadelphia Cream Cheese frosting and we all have to admit, that’s pretty good frosting. I especially like the cream cheese frosting with carrot cake—and although most of us have become accustomed to carrot cake and zucchini bread—don’t you have to wonder whose idea it was to toss these things into cake batter in the first place? That was before we took up gardening and discovered how zucchini can take over a back yard garden patch and your life. You have to DO something with all those squashes—friends and neighbors will only take so many zucchinis even if you resort to leaving them wrapped in a baby blanket on their front porch. (I once delivered a large zucchini wrapped in a baby blanket to a co-worker). And whether you make zucchini bread or cake – either, I guarantee, is delicious. One of my favs is a chocolate zucchini cake and as a result of the zucchinis taking over our back yard, I began collecting zucchini recipes until I had filled a recipe box with them.

Do you suppose that the lady (or man) of the kitchen was thinking – well, carrot or zucchini worked pretty good in a cake – I wonder what will happen if I try adding red beets – and invented Harvard Beet Spice Cake? Or was it just some exhausted mother tired of trying to talk her kids into eating their veggies? I know how that can go. I raised four picky eaters. They got it from their father, King of the Picky Eaters. I often resorted to subterfuge. I dearly loved a fish almondine recipe that my penpal Betsy, in Michigan, once sent to me. The fish was topped off with slivered or shaved almonds. No one in my household would eat almonds in a “food dish” though. So I blended the almonds with bread crumbs and used it as a topping over the fish. They never knew.

So, do you suppose that the original creator of pink beet cake was some harried housewife, exhausted from trying to get her kids to eat their veggies, so she dumped a can of red beets into the cake batter and thought to herself hmmm, there’s more than one way to…. Et al.

And every time I think I have said all I need to say on a subject, I happen to come across something else. While sorting through an overflow of cookbooks (I am always sorting through an overflow of cookbooks), I found one that looked interesting and hadn’t read…a book titled CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE by Al Sicherman. CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE was published in 1988 by Harper & Row.

The author joined the Minneapolis Star & Tribune in 1968. A copy editor since 1981, Siherman has been writing articles for the food section of the Star & Tribune. Mr. Sicherman is a kindred spirit, the kind of person who ALSO wondered about pinto beans and avocadoes turning up in your cake batter. He wrote a piece called “Things that go bump in the Oven” and speculated how Catherine Hanley ever came up with the Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe—he even called her up to ask—and he wonders about things like Impossible Pies (which we all know and love). Well, all of us who are well versed in, and collect the Pillsbury Bake-Off books, know the Tunnel of Fudge story and it appears that Impossible Pies were an accident, created by some unknown person.

(I thought the first Impossible Pie was an impossible coconut pie—the recipe appeared in a 1974 Cheviot (Ohio) PTA cookbook that my sister Becky was involved in creating. Here’s what I uncovered sleuthing on Google:

The origins of Impossible Pie (aka mystery pie, coconut amazing pie) are sketchy at best. A survey of newspaper/magazine articles suggests this recipe originated in the south (where coconut custard pies are popular). It was “discovered” by General Mills (Bisquick) and General Foods, who capitalized on the opportunity to promote their products. Corporate recipes surfaced in the mid-1970s. There are conflicting reports about the dates of introduction. The earliest recipe we have on file was published in 1968. None of the ingredients are name-brand.
This article sums up the situation best:

“Amazing. Mysterious. It could be none other than Impossible Pie, one of the most successful corporate recipe projects in the U.S. food-marketing history. Versions of Impossible Pie were also named Mystery Pie or Amazing Coconut Pie. By any name, though, Americans took to the easy recipe that is adaptable for making both sweet dessert pies and savory meat, vegetable and cheese pies. Back when quiche was trendy, the Impossible Pie formula called for ingredients similar to those for quiche yet eliminated the need to make a separate pastry crust…Not one but two huge food corporations benefited by popularizing the simple recipe formula for the Impossible Pie mixtures: the two big “Generals.” One was the Minneapolis-based General Mills, home of mythical Betty Crocker and maker of Bisquick all-purpose baking mix. The other was General Foods of White Plains, N.Y., marketer of Angel Flake processed coconut…The real mystery: Where did this recipe originate? We know the two “Generals” took a basic formula and then developed variations to showcase their respective products. Lisa Van Riper, spokeswoman for Kraft General Foods, said the company’s well-advertised recipe for Amazing Coconut Pie, “was developed as a result of a creative adaptation of the Bisquick Impossible Pies. We took a Bisquick Impossible Pie and did a creative twist by adding coconut, raisins and some other things. That was developed in June 1976 by our test-kitchen’s task force from a recipe submitted by various sources. Essentially that source was the Bisquick Impossible Pie. The Amazing Coconut Pie recipe also forms its own crust–with the baking mix sinking to the bottom of a custard mixture–and has been used ever since 1976, according to Van Riper. General Mills’ Marcia Copeland, director of Betty Crocker foods and publications, recalls that “we first saw the recipe for (crustless) coconut custard pies in Southern community cookbooks.” So it was a grass-roots recipe first, origin unknown. Some very old community cookbooks contain pie recipes that make their own crusts just from flour; others call for homemade biscuit mix. Copeland said that the Impossible Pie phenomenon lasted from the late 1970s through the 80s…

And now you know the rest of the story. But let me add that I have friends who are still making impossible pies. Last year, I copied a bunch of the recipes and sent them to a girlfriend.

Back to CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE: Sicherman asked “Did you ever wonder, when you were eating a piece of bread, how in the world anybody figured out what yeast would do what it does in there? Or have you ever wondered what caveman reasoned that smashing a chicken egg into some other stuff would be anything but peculiar? (or how many times he did it before it occurred to him to remove the shell?)…”

Now this opens an entirely new vista: I haven’t been worrying about eggs and yeast, having been focused on strange things in my cake batter, but you get the picture.

And then there are all sorts of other peculiar things like mock apple pie, being made from Ritz crackers –another topic for another day. (See my article title “Mock Apple Pie and other Foodie Wannabees” posted on 2/6/11)

If you want to try some of these recipes, here goes:

2 CUPS milk
¼ cup butter or margarine
1½ tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick baking mix

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate, 9×1¼ x 1½ inches. Place all ingredients in blender container. Cover and blend on high 15 seconds. Pour into pie plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool.

One of my favorite Impossible pies is the pumpkin one – and since it’s just a few weeks until Thanksgiving, let me share this one with you too:


1 CAN (16 OZ) pumpkin
1 can (13 oz) evaporated milk
2 TSP butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick Baking mix
2½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate, 9×1¼ x 1½ inches. Beat all ingredients 1 minute in blender on high, or 2 minutes with hand beater. Pour into plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp EACH baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon,
1l2 tsp each nutmeg and salt
1/4 cup cocoa
3 eggs
1 tsp each vanilla extract and grated orange peel
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (3 or 4)
1 cup walnuts or pecans

Use shredded raw or pureed cooked zucchini (gives a finer texture) Preheat oven 350.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and cocoa and set aside.
In large bowl beat eggs very light. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy and pale ivory in color. Slowly beat in oil.

Stir in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk and zucchini. Blend well. Add nuts (if using). Put into sheet cake pan or 2 9″ layer cake pans. Bake 350 40-45 minutes for layers, 1 hr for sheet. Layers: fill and frost with icing. Sheet cake: while warm drizzle with orange glaze.

GLAZE: Stir in bowl, 1 cup powdered sugar, 5 tsp orange juice, 1 tsp shredded orange peel and 1 TBSP hot melted butter.


2/3 cup sauerkraut
2¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
9 oz dairy sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Thoroughly grease a10” tube pan. Cut a ring of brown paper to fit the bottom of the pan and grease that, too. (*if you don’t have any brown paper, I think parchment paper will work just as well)

Drain and rinse the sauerkraut and snip it into very small pieces.

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt and cocoa. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

Alternately add dry ingredients and water to the butter mixture, stirring after each addition and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients Fold in sauerkraut and chocolate chips.

Turn into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees 55 minutes to an hour, or until cake is springy. (Toothpick test won’t work). Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes; loosen cake from sides of pan with knife and invert on serving plate. Peel paper from the top.

Prepare glaze; melt butter and brown sugar together. Boil 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Cool 10 minutes, then beat in hot milk. Add sifted powdered (confectioners) sugar, stirring until glaze consistency. Drizzle over slightly warm cake.


1 PKG chocolate cake mix, 2 layer size
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
½ cup Miracle Whip dressing
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets* Bake 10-23 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes 4 dozen.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: I’ve said this many times. I don’t grease cookie sheets anymore. I use parchment paper, cut to fit the cookie sheets and you can use it REPEATEDLY. It works much better than greasing the cookie sheets).


• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 egg
• 2 cups cooked pinto beans, mashed
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans
• 2 cups diced apple without peel

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube pan.
2. Cream butter or margarine and sugar together. Add the beaten egg and mix well. Stir in the mashed cooked beans and the vanilla.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground allspice together. Add the chopped pecans, golden raisins, and the diced apples to the flour mixture. Stir to coat. Pour flour mixture into the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 45 minutes. Dribble with a simple confectioner’s sugar icing and garnish with candied cherries and pecan halves, if desired.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

¾ cup sauerkraut drained and chopped
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup water
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Sift all dry ingredients together. Cream sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat eggs in one at a time.
2. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with water.
3. Add sauerkraut mix thoroughly.
4. Pour into greased pan or pans.
5. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until cake tests done.
6. Frost


• 2 cups flour
• 1/2 cup cocoa
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 3/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 cup water
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt. Cream together the sugar, mayonnaise, water and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into greased and floured layer cake pans (or a 9- x 13-inch pan). Bake at 350°F. for about 25 minutes.

1 3/4 c. flour
1 c. oil
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. pureed cooked fresh beets (if using canned, drain and mash.)
6 tbsp. carob or chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour, soda, salt and set aside. Combine sugar, eggs, oil in mixing bowl. Beat in beets, chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating well. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
This is an excellent cake. Healthy too. Very moist.

Chocolate Avocado Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch tins. Set aside. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside too. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado. Add sugar into the wet mix and stir. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

Pour batter into greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before icing.
I read about a tomato soup cake “from Michigan” which made me wonder –DID tomato soup cake originate in Michigan? I turned to two of my favorite resources, AMERICA COOKS by the Browns, published in 1940 – attributes Tomato Soup Cake to Michigan, as do Larry Massie & Priscilla Massie in their fantastic cookbook “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” which does indeed offer a recipe for tomato soup cake. Their recipe comes from a 1945 Kalamazoo community cookbook. Here is that recipe for tomato soup cake:

1 cup sugar
2 TSP shortening
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 can tomato soup
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped nut meats

Cream shortening, add sugar, then tomato soup, then flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and soda. Then add raisins and nuts and bake in a loaf pan for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

And here is the Tomato Soup cake recipe in the Browns cookbook, “AMERICA COOKS”:

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup tomato soup, undiluted
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Blend the shortening with sugar. Stir baking soda into tomato soup and add to shortening/sugar mixture. Sift dry ingredients and add the mixture. Stir in raisins and walnuts. Pour into greased and floured 13” by 9” cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Frost with a Cream Cheese Frosting.

To make the Browns’ Frosting for tomato soup cake:

1 pkg cream cheese
1 TBSP butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar to spreading consistency

The Browns note that the shortening they used was Crisco and one entire can of Campbell’s condensed and undiluted tomato soup equaled one cup. Now this may be a minor discrepancy in today’s can of Campbell’s tomato soup, inasmuch as all of the soups measure a net weight of 10 ¾ ounces…but when you pour the contents of a cream soup into a glass measuring cup—it’s just a shade over 8 ounces. What to do? Use a can of tomato soup and go ahead with the recipe. I don’t think it will make any difference. If you are a purist, scoop away anything over one cup.

Happy Cooking!



Quite unintentionally, three cookbooks ended up in a short stack together as I was engaged in my perpetual endeavor to find places for all the cookbooks on my bookshelves. Yes, there are a good many nice solid oak bookshelves throughout the house – many of them hold my collection of cookie jars and recipe boxes (you can’t imagine how much space cookie jars take up when you have a lot of them) – periodically I go on rampages with the cookbooks, thinning out their ranks a little—to make room for more. Anyway, I was sitting on the floor reflecting on how much of my life is spent trying to find space for books, when my line of vision fell on these three particular books. The oldest was first published in 1939, reprinted in 1940. The newest was published in 2009and the one in the middle, in 1996—a span of seventy years from the oldest to the youngest.

Not by any means are these three cookbooks representative of cookbooks in general—and we could spend days discussing all the different types of cookbooks. But I think they do provide some indication of the evolution of cookbooks in the past 70 years.

First then, is a book titled “WORLD FAMOUS CHEFS’ COOKBOOK/RARE OLD RECIPES, ARRANGE FOR THE HOMEMAKER.” This book opens with recipes from Grand Hotel, Stockholm. You may know that our word “smorgasbord” comes from the Swedish, famous for hors d’oeuvres and buffet foods. In the introduction to Smorgasbord, the author writes…While the American buffet table may sometimes be set with one side close to the wall, Swedish smorgasbord is always set so that guests may walk all around it. At one end is placed an assortment of sliced bread, including rye and slabs of Swedish bread; butter molded in fancy shapes and arranged on a bed of ice is found nearby, with suitable service utensil. As the fundamental meaning of the word “smorgas” is sandwich (I didn’t know that!) so the foundation idea of the “smorgasbord” is a “sandwich table”, therefore all kinds of pickled, smoked, dried and salted fish, as well as platters of cold meat cuts and cheese, always appear near the bread and butter supply. The guest helps himself to bread, butter, and an assortment of delicacies from which he may make his own “sandwiches”; however, neither sandwiches nor canapés, as such, ever appear on the authentic smorgasbord.

Then, around the table, are arranged an amazing array of colorful salads of which the Swedish herring salad is a ‘must’. Many clear aspic salads are included too. If the smorgasbord is to serve as a main meal, such as dinner or supper, and there are too many guests to seat at the tale, several hot dishes are also included as part of the menu.

The mistake that most American diners make, when they first see a smorgasbord, is over-emphasis on the appetizer angle. The epicure, however, soon learns that these delicacies are not meant to satisfy his appetite but to stimulate it, and he therefore deftly and delicately serves himself what might perhaps seem but tidbits to the gourmand—for he realizes that the smorgasbord either offers and entire meal or precedes a full-course one…”

What follows in this chapter is a tantalizing assortment of cold sauce recipes, chilled or jellied fish dishes—recipes for herring, crawfish, boiled crabs in Remoulade Sauce, Salmon Mousse with eggs and many others.

I am partial to recipes for relishes and “World Famous Chefs” offers a great selection—from Grape Catchup (which I’d love to try) to a standard tomato catchup, recipes for chutneys and pickled fruits and vegetables. I found a recipe for Spiced Grapes which made me chuckle – I thought I had discovered something new a year or so ago with an Internet recipe for pickled grapes – and here they are, in a 1939 cookbook!

“World Famous Chefs” offers recipes from the Netherland Plaza—I gasped to see it; this was a famous restaurant in downtown Cincinnati when I was growing up. Included in the book are many of the meat entrees served at the Netherland Plaza back in the day—including – be still my heart – a quite authentic recipe for Hungarian Goulash! (see recipe below). This section is followed by recipes from the Pennsylvania Hotel, New York—you must bear in mind, these were the top notch restaurants 70 years ago. If I were to choose one from the Pennsylvania Hotel, I think it would be the Chopped Cowboy Tenderloin Steak.*

Next is Hotel Adolphus, in Dallas, which opened its doors in 1912 and was still going strong in 1939. Chicken legs can often be purchased inexpensively, so I will include the Adolphus recipe for Deviled Chicken Legs.*

There are also recipes and chapters dedicated to Canadian Hotels as well as many others – but this is a book well conceived and curiously compiled. It was compiled by Ford Naylor and arranged and edited by Irene Hume Taylor, a home economics lecturer and writer/consultant. “Every recipe in this book,” writes Ford Naylor, with few exceptions, is a secret recipe which has been jealously guarded…” Well, the secret’s out. FYI, you know I generally try to find out through Google if a book I am writing about is available. has one used copy of “World Famous Chefs” listed at $29.95.


4 LBS grapes
2 lbs sugar
1 tsp mixed spices
¼ up cider vinegar

Crush grapes in a preserving kettle; cook over gentle heat until seeds separate. Rub through fine colander. Add sugar, spice sand vinegar to pulp; cook 30 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour into scalded jelly jars and seal.


12 cooked chicken legs
6 TBSP butter
1 tsp prepared mustard
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp vinegar
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup bread crumbs
3 cups hot seasoned mashed potatoes
1 ½ cups Bearnaise suace**

Put chicken legs under broiler for 10 minutes. Cream the butter, mustard, pepper, salt, paprika and vinegar together. Remove legs from heat, dip in beaten egg, then rub each with the butter mixture. Place in baking pan, cover with the bread crumbs and bake in a moderate oven until browned. Serve 2 deviled legs with a scoop of mashed potatoes and 4 TBSP Bearnaise sauce.

To make a simple Bearnaise Sauce you will need
1 shallot
½ tsp ground white pepper
Little chopped tarragon
2 soupspoons white wine
5 egg yolks
1 lb sweet butter, melted
1 little chopped tarragon chervil
Cook shallot, cook with ground white pepper, tarragon chervil and w hite wine until no liquid is left. Cool it then add the egg yolks stirring well. Cook in double boiler until it starts to thicken, add the melted sweet butter very slowly. Strain, season, add the second chopped chervil. Serve with broiled meat or chicken. Serves 5.

Sandy’s cooknote: I know, I almost fainted over a pound of butter going into the recipe. But I THINK the leftover Bearnaise would keep a long time in the frig and would be available to go on other recipes for steaks or chicken.

From the Pennsylvania, here is their recipe for Chopped Cowboy Tenderloin Steak:

1 lb chopped steak
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp minced onion

Mix ingredients, then shape into small flat 4-oz cakes. Fry or pan broil in clear fat. Serves 6. Easy, yes?

And from the Netherlands Plaza, here is their recipe for Hungarian Goulash:

4 lbs beef from the neck or shoulder
2 onions minced,
Garlic, chopped
Salt, pepper, paprika,
2 tbsp flour
1 qt stock
2 TBSP tomato puree or paste
2 fresh tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
1 tsp chopped parsley

Cut the meat into 2” cubes. Place in a frying pan with 1 TBSP of lard (or cooking oil) and brown for a few minutes. Remove the meat and place a stew pan. Add the onions, little garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and flour. Mix this well together. Add stock, tomato puree, chopped fresh tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then add carrots and cook for about 1 hour. Next add the potatoes and cook until tender. Place the stew in a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve, Serves 6.

(Sandy’s cooknote: Judy, if you are reading this, this one’s for you.)

Well, it wasn’t my intention to make this a two or three part post but I really got carried away with World Famous Chefs and OMG, I could spend another week rhapsodizing about it. I am trying to think where my copy came from – I THINK the book may have originally been one of my sister Becky’s.

End of Part One

Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook Collecting!



Recently, I flew to my hometown of Cincinnati to spend a few days with relatives and friends. Originally, the “plan” was for me to fly to Ohio in August, when my son Steve & his wife were driving to Cincinnati for their vacation. Steve had not been to Cincinnati since he was ten years old and for Lori it was a first. I was to be the ‘in-between’ introducing them to all the relatives on both sides of Steve’s family – although I have been divorced for over 25 years, I have maintained a warm and loving relationship with my in-laws.

However, the health of my significant other, Bob, took a turn in August and I was unable to find anyone willing to check on him every day. We had misjudged when my daughter in law would be returning to the high school where she teaches. So, my son decided to book a flight for himself to California and the new “plan” was for him to be Bob’s caregiver for a week, while I took a short vacation. (Perhaps I should note, I had been Bob’s caregiver 24/7 for the past year without any kind of a break). My daughter in law rebooked my flight and I was scheduled to fly to Cincinnati on my birthday in September.

Even the best laid plans, etc etc – and Bob passed away September 22nd. Steve cancelled HIS flight and to make a long story even longer, I did fly to Cincinnati on September 28 after several hectic days of making arrangements with a mortuary to have Bob cremated. (Steve has rebooked HIS flight and will be arriving October 22nd – my granddaughter is thrilled; Steve is her favorite uncle).

I was reluctant to go, after all the stops and starts and worried constantly about my little Jack Russell terrier, Jackie, that she would be lonely and confused – first Bob’s departure, then mine. But, going to my hometown was healing and one of the greatest rewards was a reunion with two Beckman cousins I had not seen for over 50 years. A third Beckman relative is my cousin Irene with whom I have had a warm relationship throughout our lives. We even made our first communions together, and were partners walking up to the church.

The day after my arrival, the three cousins arrived at my nephew’s house (where I stay when I am in town) and we spent 7 hours talking non-stop and sharing photographs and memories. And Irene – who the family calls Renee—presented me with a birthday present – Grandma Beckman’s cookbook.

Now, a word about Grandma Beckman’s cookbook – I didn’t know it existed until a few years ago, when searching for a particular family recipe. Renee told me that she had Grandma Beckman’s cookbook, into which Grandma had written many of her favorite recipes. I was astonished when I first learned about the cookbook –I had NO idea it even existed. As for my paternal grandmother having a cookbook – that grandmother barely wrote English and all of her recipes were in her head. The wise one in the family was my Aunt Evelyn (whom we all call Aunt Dolly, a family pet name) who learned Grandma Schmidt’s recipes by standing by her side, watching every step of making strudels and noodles and Hungarian goulash. We finally published a family cookbook in 2004 and called it “Grandma’s Favorite” in honor of that grandmother.

But back to Grandma Beckman’s cookbook! The book itself is in a truly battered, tattered condition with the covers falling off and held together with old tape. Published in 1889, “OUR HOME CYCLOPEDIA COOKERY AND HOUSEKEEPING” was published by the Mercantile Publishing Company in Detroit, Michigan. There is no byline but the inside page offers a copyright by Frank S. Burton, 1889. (That being said, my favorite research resource, Google, offers a listing of this cookbook by the Library of Congress and indicates the author as Edgar S. Darling).

It would have been a contemporary cookbook when Grandma B. was a young woman and my copy shows a great deal of wear and tear, with some of the most stained pages are under the Dessert section. Did Grandma B. make a lot of pies? I don’t know. The only thing I clearly remember her making for us were some corn pancakes or fritters, once when she was visiting us. I admit, I am appalled by recipes for collared eels and cods’ head but a recipe for cooking beef kidneys rang a bell in my mother’s long forgotten recipe repertoire. Kidney stew with noodles appeared frequently on the dinner table. (Also bearing in mind, before and during World War II, “organ meats” or “offal” were cheap and unrationed. While browsing through the pages of Our Home Cookery, I also noticed a recipe for “mock duck” that is exactly the way a mock turkey recipe was made by my sister in law years ago. Interesting!

But it isn’t the printed pages of “Our Home Cookery” that captures my attention; it is, at the back of the book, recipes written in Grandma B’s own handwriting. This is really the piece de resistance in this copy of “Our Home Cookery”.

First there is a recipe for Blackberry Wine, followed by recipes for mustard pickles – there are some pages of recipes clipped from newspapers or magazines – a recipe for “stuffed and baked mangoes” (but the mangoes in this recipe are bell peppers…in Grandma B’s time—as well as my mother’s –bell peppers were called “mangoes” and I don’t think that was common anywhere else in the USA (write to me if you know otherwise!). Grandma’s stuffed and baked mangoes appear to be the same recipe my mother used. This is followed by a recipe for Upside Down cake, then one for Apple Sauce cake and a third for Angel Food cake—both of these pages are heavily stained . The following page contains recipes for “Hungry Cake”, one for cookies and another for cream puffs. (my mother made cream puffs; they may have been the same recipe—I will do my best to type up some of these recipes.) Next page contains recipes written in pencil for lemon snaps and “Churngold Dutch Apple Cake” – Churngold was and still is a brand-name for margarine. Margarine has been around since 1869.

Some of the pages are missing, ending on page 395 with directions for “keeping apples fresh all winter” and “curing ham or other meat for smoking”. Per Google and an entry for the cookbook by the Library of Congress, the book should have had 400 pages.

Here is the recipe for stewed kidneys, as directed in “Our Home Cyclopedia”:

Split the kidneys and peel off the outer skin as before (in a previous recipe titled Kidneys, Broiled or Roasted); slice them thin on a plate, dust them with flour, pepper and salt; brown some flour in butter in a stewpan; dilute with a little water; mix smooth and in it cook the sliced kidneys. Let them simmer but do not boil. They will cook in a very short time. Butter some slices of toast and lay on a hot dish and pour over it the stewed kidneys, gravy and all.

*Sandy’s cooknote: my mother cooked noodles to place the cooked kidneys onto. And I may be mistaken but I think my mother soaked the kidneys, like liver, in a bowl of vinegar before cooking it).


To every gallon of berries take one gallon of water; let stand 2 days and 2 nights covered with mosquito bar [netting] then strain.

To every gallon put 3 lbs of crushed sugar [before granulated was invented—you had to do your own crushing of the sugar) and dissolve & stir well; bottle and let stand open 2 days, then put the corks on loosely until fermentation ceases then put corks on tight but not too tight for fear of bursting bottles.


½ lb each ground pork and beef
½ cup of rice
1 onion, chopped fine
2 tomatoes
Cayenne pepper
1 egg

Mix with cracker crumbs and fill mangoes* put into pan and cover with tomatoes or pureed tomatoes.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: I have written about bell peppers being called “mangoes” in several of my earlier posts. As far as I know, bell peppers were called mangoes only in the Midwest or around Cincinnati. I remembered seeing bell peppers advertised as “mangoes” in supermarkets when I was 18 or 19 years old. In 1961 when Jim & I first moved to California, we met a wonderful couple named Teresa and Jim Keith. Teresa was a seasoned cook from Louisiana. When she asked me what I cooked, I mentioned “stuffed mangoes” (not KNOWING that mangoes are a fruit and well known in California). “Oh?” she said. “How do you make those?” and I proceeded to describe mixing together ground meat, rice, tomato sauce and egg and “putting that into the mangoes and cooking it in tomato sauce”. I don’t know how we ever figured out that MY mangoes were not HER mangoes. But this begged the question, in my mind, HOW bell peppers came to be called “mangoes” in the Midwest. I finally found an explanation in one of my canning cook books. See footnote below.) Meanwhile, here is Grandma
Beckman’s Applesauce Cake recipe:


1 ½ CUPS sugar
¾ cup shortening
1/8 tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
1½ cups unsweetened apple sauce
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup water
1 cup raisins
2 cups flour
Bake ¾ hour. Makes 1 large loaf

(*Sandy’s cooknote: Grandma doesn’t offer any directions. SHE knew how to make her applesauce cake and the cookbook wasn’t intended for other eyes.

So, what I suggest is this: cream together sugar and shortening. Sift together the flour, baking soda and spices. Add it the shortening and sugar mixture. Mix well. Stir in the raisins, applesauce and ¼ cup water. Mix well. Place into a large greased and floured loaf pan (or two smaller ones) and bake at 350 degrees.)

I had a second thought – maybe you should plump up the raisins with the ¼ cup water and then let it cool before adding to the cake.

Grandma’s Churngold Dutch Apple Cake

2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
3 TBSP melted churngold (*use margarine or butter)

Beat egg until light and add milk alternately with dry ingredients. Add churngold and beat light. Spread dough ½” thick in greased tins. Arrange with apple slices in rows sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. (presumably, then bake @ 350 degrees until the cake is done.)

Sandy’s footnote: *In Jeanne Lesem’s cookbook “Preserving Today” she writes,[about Mock Mangoes] “Mangoes were a popular nineteenth century pickle in the United States—not the aromatic tropical fruit we savor today, but stuffed fruits and vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce, somewhat similar to authentic Indian mango pickles. William Woys Weaver writes in A Quaker Woman’s Cookbook (1982)’They became popular in England during the eighteenth century, mostly as a less expensive substitute for the real imported article…the pickle was popularized in this country through English cookbooks…Green bell peppers were generally used for ‘mangoes’ in Pennsylvania and western Maryland, and muskmelons in Tidewater Maryland. Other cooks used tomatoes, peaches or cucumbers.”

Coincidentally, “Our Home Cyclopedia” was reprinted in 2010 and is available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. Barnes & Noble prices start at $23.26 while Amazon offers the book for $26.41 new or $19.95 used.

Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook Collecting!


Even though I collect recipes, recipe boxes and cookbooks—and at first glance it might seem there isn’t any rhyme or reason to what I am collecting – there actually is a method to my madness. For instance, all of the canning/pickling/jam & jelly making/chutney cookbooks are in a single bookcase in Bob’s room. There is an old fashioned extra long recipe box decorated with a Pennsylvania Dutch design also in that bookcase – because it contains all the jam and jelly and chutney and pickle recipes that are on 3×5” cards, collected over a period of about 45 years. But in addition, there is a larger recipe tin, one that Gooseberry Patch sold a few years ago (it has a retro look) – and all of the recipe cards that are oversize are in that box. But wait—I’m not through; in the garage library are all of my three ring binders filled with recipes. There is one for chutneys, another for jellies and jams, several for pickle recipes. These are the 8 ½ x 11” recipes clipped from magazines where I wanted to save the entire article.

Before we moved to the high desert in 2008 we lived in a house in Arleta, in the San Fernando Valley, that boasted a yard with twenty something fruit trees, not including nut (walnut and macadamia) and a Concord grape arbor. We lived there for almost 20 years and made every effort to can/pickle/dehydrate or convert into jams and jellies, butters and spreads—all the harvest our trees produced.

Our new home has grape vines and we have planted 4 fruit trees so far. It may be a few years before I can drag out all of the quart jars again. Meantime, I rely heavily on anyone we know, or anyone my son and daughter in law know, who have fruit trees and more fruit than they know what to do with. It delights me no end that one of their friends has a lot of pomegranate trees. Now, here’s something you may or may not know about pomegranates. They are a pain in the behind to peel and retrieve all the little ruby bits of fruit. I think I have finally found a pretty good way to do it—something I saw on Google: you cut a big X in the top of the fruit, and then, holding it underwater in a big bowl, begin removing the peel and letting the beautiful fruit fall to the bottom. When I have enough of the fruit, I put it into large Zip lock bags and begin mashing it with my hands or a rolling pin….over and over until I have a lot of juice. Strain and pour into jars (We have a collection of one gallon pickle jars that I get out when I am making juice to make jelly/jam.

The ‘jack pot’ to converting the fruit to juice is making pomegranate jelly. Everybody loves it. My friends and their children all ask for it. We have also made pomegranate liqueur which, after it has aged for about ten years (if you can keep it that long) becomes like a fine brandy. I love to make liqueurs. We save up all the small glass bottles we can find, soak off the labels and have them ready for liqueurs ready to be bottled.

Another plus to living in the high desert is being near the Bing cherry trees –and cherry liqueur is another great gift to have on hand to give to friends for the holidays. One of the directions said to discard the fruit after aging it in vodka for a few months. Discard it? Not a chance. I have the now-almost-dried cherries in our second refrigerator and have used some of it in fruitcakes. One year, experimenting, I made a chocolate cherry Bundt cake with the cherries. Once the cherries have dried out from months of soaking in vodka, the seeds are pretty easy to remove.

When I was still employed full-time, I had a ready-made fan base in the department where I worked so I could give everyone a jar of jelly or jam at Christmas and still have a lot leftover for family and friends.
Well, I’m retired now so the recipients of our jellies and jams are my manicurist, the mail carrier, family and friends.

When did I start making jellies or jams? I’m not sure although I do remember (and so does my son Chris) that in the beginning I used baby food jars to put the jelly or jam into, and then sealed it with melted paraffin. It’s been years since I’ve done anything like that – we graduated to 8 ounce jelly jars that come with rings and lids and the finished product creates a vacuum seal when it cools (and lasts much longer than jam in a baby food jar).

We had enough fruit trees in Arleta to experiment with recipes and for about 15 years, we entered my jellies, jams, pickles, relishes and other good things into the Los Angeles County Fair. We had two fig trees; I made pickled figs and fig/almond relish, brandied figs and mock strawberry jam made with – finely chopped figs.

Well, you get the picture. I often thought maybe I was a squirrel in a former life; whenever the fruit on our trees began to ripen, I began to search through my recipes to see what I could make next.

Some of my most popular recipes weren’t made with the fruit from our yard – everyone loved a chocolate-raspberry spread I began making and I’d get a lot of requests for it.

Here, then, is the recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Spread. To make this recipe you will need:

5 cups prepared fruit (about 4 pints fully ripe red raspberries)
7 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin (I prefer Ball low sugar pectin)
5 squares unsweetened chocolate
½ tsp butter or margarine

First, prepare your jelly jars. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water then place them in a large pot. Fill with water and bring to a boil. Wash the lids and rings. Put the lids into a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Let simmer over a low flame to keep the lids hot.

Crush berries thoroughly, one cup at a time. Sieve ½ of the pulp to remove some seeds, if desired. Measure 5 cups into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan.

Measure sugar into a separate bowl. Stir fruit pectin into fruit in saucepan. Add chocolate and margarine. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8” of the tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly.

At this point, you can give the jars of chocolate raspberry spread a boiling water bath for 5 minutes—or if the jars were still very hot when you took them out of the water, and filled almost immediately after, they should produce a seal without the boiling water bath. You will hear a slight “ping” from each jar as it produces a vacuum. Spread sets slowly; allow about a week. Makes about 9 one-cup jars. Your friends will love you for this one!

This next recipe was originally called Triple Berry Jam; I renamed it Hunka Hunka Berry Jam. To make Hunka Hunka Berry Jam you will need:

5 cups prepared fruit (about 3 pints fully ripe strawberries, 1 ½ pints fully ripe red raspberries and 2 pints fully ripe blackberries (or any combination to make 5 cups – whatever is available or on sale).
7 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin (My first choice is Ball Low Sugar Pectin
½ tsp butter or margarine

Stem and thoroughly crush strawberries one layer at a time. Measure 2½ cups into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Crush raspberries and blackberries, one layer at a time. Measure 2 ½ cups berries into the pot. Prepare jars and rings as instructed in directions for chocolate raspberry spread.

Measure sugar into a separate bowl. Stir pectin into the fruit in the saucepan. Add butter or margarine Place over high heat; bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly. Immediately stir in all sugar. Bring to a full boil and boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8” of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly. At this point, you can give the jars of jam a boiling water bath for 5 minutes—or if the jars were still very hot when you took them out of the water, and filled almost immediately after, they should produce a seal without the boiling water bath. You will hear a slight “ping” from each jar as it produces a vacuum. Makes about 8 one cup jars.

Note: when you use Ball low-sugar powdered pectin, you CAN reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe; you won’t get as great a yield but the jam will have a much fruitier taste. When I am using the low sugar pectin, I usually use about 4 cups of sugar for this recipe. Also note, the sealed jars of jelly/jam do not need to be refrigerated until you open them. THEN you need to keep the opened jar in the frig.


You can make this any time of the year because it uses a commercial apple juice. Friends always loved this jelly too. To make Candy Apple jelly you will need

7 cups apple juice
1 cup red cinnamon candies (red hots)
8 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin
½ tsp butter or margarine

Measure apple juice and cinnamon candies into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Prepare jars and rings/lids as directed in first recip. Keep lids hot until ready to fill jars. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Stir fruit pectin into fruit juice in saucepot. Add butter or margarine. Bring mix to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8” of the tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth. Cover with 2 piece lids. Screw bands tightly. If using boiling water bath, boil 5 minutes. Otherwise, let cool and check seals after the jelly has cooled.

4 cups fresh pomegranate juice*
¼ tsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice
1 package low sugar powdered pectin
2 cups sugar

Mix together pomegranate juice, lemon juice, the powdered pectin and the butter in a large pot. Bring to a boil. When boiling, add sugar all at once. Return to a boil. Pour into prepared jelly jars and seal with two piece lids. Let cool.

*Nowadays you can buy very good pomegranate juice. If you don’t have access to fresh pomegranates, you might want to make the jelly using something like POM pomegranate juice. I have also made jelly with some of the combination juices like cranberry and pomegranate juice. It all works!


This is something I made up one year. To make Grammy’s Christmas Jammy you will need

1 package dried cherries or dried cranberries
1 package dried mixed fruit, diced
4 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3-4 fresh ripe pears, peeled and diced
2 cups apple juice
2 cups cranberry juice (or pomegranate juice)
Fresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries (I think I used about 2 cups each fruit)

Mix together all fruits. Measure 4 cups fruit per batch and use one package low sugar pectin per batch. Add 1-2 cups of sugar per batch, depending on how sweet you want it to be. Follow previous directions.


4 CUPS prepared fruit (Granny Smith apples) ½ cup raisins and 1 ¼ cups water
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 box powdered fruit pectin
½ tsp butter or margarine

Peel and core apples; grind or finely chop fruit Add raisins and water. Measure 4 cups into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon and allspice. Have jars prepared and lids in boiling water; keep the lids hot until ready to use.

Measure sugars into separate bowls. Stir fruit pectin into fruit in saucepot. Add butter or margarine. Bring mix to a full rolling boil o high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugars. Return to full rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off any foam. Ladle quickly into prepared jars seal with two piece lids. Either give the jars a 5 minute boiling water bath or let cool once they are sealed.

(If your jars are hot and the flat lids have been kept in hot water, and the mixture is hot, you should get a proper seal. The purpose of putting the lids into hot water and boiling them is to get the sealant material on the inside of the lid to soften, so that when you put the jam or jelly into a jar, and seal it, you will get a firm seal. You won’t get a proper seal if the lids haven’t been in hot/boiling water long enough).

Any jars that do not seal properly should be refrigerated and used promptly. Properly sealed jellies and jams will keep for many months in a cool dark space.)

Tips for jelly & jam making – buy canning jars at yard sales or flea markets; you can use either 8 ounces or pint jars. Make sure there are no cracks or chips in the jars. If you have enough 8 ounce canning jars, all you will need to buy are the lids and rings.

Look for fruit that is on sale; you can prep the fruit by removing stems, rinsing berries off and then dicing or slicing…you can pack it into plastic freezer bags or plastic containers and freeze it until you are ready to make jelly or jam. Mid summer temperatures of over 100 degrees isn’t the best time to start making jelly.


2 CUPS pomegranate juice
2 cups sugar
2 cups vodka (you don’t need an expensive vodka for this recipe. Just buy what ever is on sale).

Mix it all together, pour into a large jar and store it in a cool dark place (a pantry if you have one). Every so often give the jar a good shake to make the sugar dissolve. This needs to age 3 to 6 months before rebottling it into small bottles to give as gifts.

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!