Monthly Archives: June 2013


Some of you may have heard this story. True story.
It starts with a 5th grader at St. Leo’s (me) and my discomfort hanging around the fifth grade girls who sat outside on the steps during recess and lunchtime talking about boys, makeup and getting their periods. It could have been Greek where I was concerned–so I did what I was comfortable doing; I herded together the first and second grade girls to play circle games (like Farmer in the Dell). There was a little chubby-cheeked first grader who stole my heart; she was like a little sister. She went home for lunch but when she got back, she would take my hand away from whoever was holding one of them – and it was ok, because all the little girls knew I loved Connie. She was my favorite.

At some point in time, my Grandma Beckman came to visit and one day when I was about to leave for school she asked me if I knew a little girl named Connie C. “Why yes!” I exclaimed “Connie is one of my little girls!”

“She’s your cousin” my grandmother said.

I didn’t know the story at that time – There had been 5 Beckman children born to my Uncle Tony, one of my mother’s brothers. Their mother died in an accident and their father, suffering from battle fatigue (from serving in World War II) that led to alcoholism, couldn’t care for them. They were being raised in an orphanage in Cincinnati; my mother would go get them for some holidays or during summer vacation. the youngest child, Connie, was put up for adoption. I never knew her.

I told Connie she was my cousin (adoption notwithstanding) and, innocently, told her she should tell her mother–I thought it was wonderful that she was my cousin. We walked around the school building telling the nuns she was my cousin. Connie’s mother told her I was lying and I began to wonder if I had done something wrong. I guess in time I stopped taking charge of the little girls and after graduating from St Leo’s, I lost contact with Connie even though her family lived right up the street from my sister Becky, on Trevor.

Once when my mother brought the Beckman cousins home for a holiday, I told Peggy – who was my age — that I knew where her sister lived and we walked over to Trevor Street so I could show the house to her.

Time passed and I lost contact with my cousin Peggy, who was living a really rough life for a teenager. She was living on her own by the time she was 15 and letters to and from each other stopped. Throughout my life, I never forgot Connie and was burdened with the guilt of having been the person who told her about a life her adoptive parents wanted her to forget. It always weighed heavily on my mind.

More years went by. My cousin (our cousin) Renee began getting into geneology and began tracking the Beckman family. Her mother and mine had been sisters–two sisters who married two best friends. There came a time- maybe 10 or 12 years ago–when someone emailed Renee asking about the Beckman family. She had a friend, she wrote, who was a Beckman. That friend was Peggy (now being called Margie). Renee responded but didn’t hear from the woman again. Then my curiosity was piqued–and I wrote to this woman, sending photographs and telling her I believed that her friend was my cousin Peggy. And so a broken thread was repaired.

But unbeknownst to me, when Connie turned 18, Peggy contacted her and the two sisters were reunited. They sometimes wondered how they managed to become reunited. Their other siblings, three of them, passed away at early ages. Now there were just the two sisters.

In September, 2011, just after Bob passed away, I flew to Cincinnati to meet with three of my cousins – Renee, Peggy, – and Connie. The two sisters had reunited and sometimes visited Cincinnati to see their mother’s sisters. We shared photographs and talked a mile a minute and took pictures of ourselves – they both said they couldn’t ever remember what the connection was, how they knew how to find each other. “YOU!” Peggy said, “YOU were the connection!”. I don’t think I was the connection. I think God was. He wanted those sisters to find each other.

Out of all the pictures we took that day, there is one special one, of me and Connie holding hands. That is what she remembers most about our meeting at St. Leo’s – she always wanted to hold my hand. And I always wanted to hold hers.

Well, Connie married and has a loving husband and children but as I write this, she is in a hospital in Virginia suffering from a heart condition. I can’t imagine Peggy not having Connie in her life. I can’t imagine me not having Connie in my life, either–not after so many years of not knowing.
I want to hold her hand again.

love, Sandy

Today the doctors informed Jack that Connie had several strokes, and one massive one. There is no brain activity. As soon as all the children are assembled in Norfolk, they will take her off life support. There is no further information at this time regarding services, etc. Connie is an organ donor. I will send you and e mail when I know more. I will be leaving for Virginia as soon as I get the news from my niece Jenny about arrangements. Thank you for your prayers and please continue them for the family.



Originally on February 14, 2011, I wrote the following blog post:  “Abe of asked 500 customers who owned a cookbook that had been given to them by a family member to tell the story about their handed down culinary companions.  He wrote, “Those old, splattered, battered cookbooks found on kitchen shelves are also treasured family heirlooms in many cases. According to research by, Irma  Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking is the cookbook most frequently handed down through the generations.  The books often spanned several generations of cooks and had huge sentimental value. In 96 per cent of the cases, a grandmother, mother and mother-in-law had handed over the book to the next generation. The books tended to have a long history within each family – 58 per cent of the cookbooks were more than 50 years old. Thirty eight per cent of the current owners said they had owned the book for more than 30 years…”

Well, recently I had the opportunity to hold in my own two hands a copy of JOY that had belonged, for decades, to my sister-in-law, Bunny Schmidt, who passed away from cancer of the esophagus in 2012, about eleven months after my partner Bob passed away from the same disease. It’s a battered and stained Joy, exactly what Abe Books was talking about. I am delivering it to my niece Leslie in a couple weeks. She is the oldest child of my brother and sister in law, Bunny.

The cookbook I grew up on, and learned to cook from, was – as I have written before in Sandychatter—an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook that I believe my mother bought for a dollar at Woolworth’s. (I now have that very cookbook, which is certainly battered, tattered and stained. Years later I searched for, and found, more pristine copies).  When I was a teenager, a copy of Meta Given’s “The Modern Family Cookbook” appeared in our family bookcase (a little cherry wood bookcase with glass doors, that my younger sister now has). I think it was a book club offering but that baffles me as neither of my parents ever joined a book club. I have a vague memory of my mother refusing to pay for it and so it languished on the family bookshelves until I began to read it and eventually claimed for my own. And, to add to the mystery, there is no indication on the inside pages of the cookbook that it was ever a book club selection.  The original copyright was 1942. This edition was copyrighted by Meta Given in 1953, which sounds about right to me.

Not surprisingly, the pages most stained are those with cookie recipes on them- rocks and hermits, gum drop cookies, something called cocoa Indians, lemon drop  cookies and molasses drop. My mother turned me loose in the kitchen when I was 9 or 10 years old and most of the time, I baked cookies. I really wasn’t. interested in cooking anything else at the time.

I now own a copy of the original 1942 “Modern Family Cookbook” which is somewhat thicker and heavier than the 1953 edition. In 1947, Meta compiled “Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking which is in two volumes. I had to laugh at myself; I thought I only had a copy of Volume I but when I began going through some of my old cookbooks in our new built garage library, I found a copy of Volume II.

None of my copies of Meta Given books have dust jackets and therein is the crux of the matter – so often, biographical information can be found on the dust jackets of cookbooks.  I began a Google search:

 Margi Shrum of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote the following in April, 2009I spoke last week to a group of parents of special-needs children, and the conversation turned to old cookbooks. Egads, I love them. My favorite is one my late mother used, “Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Cooking,” which seems to have been first published in 1947. I have the 1955 edition. It’s chock-a-block with antiquated stuff. I never, and you shouldn’t, use the techniques for canning or preserving foods in these old books, and I am never going to make Muskrat Fricassee (calls for one dressed muskrat. If I could picture what a muskrat looked like I’d picture it dressed in top hat and tails. Carrying a cane). But there’s also a lot of useful stuff in this book, which is in two volumes and has 1,500 pages. I’ve tried loosely over the years to find information about the author but to little avail. She was of some note in the 1940s through the early ’60s, if the popularity of her cookbooks is any indication. Her first was the “The Modern Family Cookbook,” published in 1942.”

Margie adds, “The encyclopedia’s foreword says Ms. Given grew up on a ‘Missouri hill farm’ learning to cook with the limited foodstuffs available to her. She then studied home economics and became involved in developing and testing recipes, and in writing about nutrition, shopping and kitchen equipment. Her foreword to my edition — purchased on eBay and immediately chewed on by my golden retriever puppy, who smelled food — was written from Orlando in 1955….”

May I add that the foreword also states that Meta Given..” had good food (growing up) but little variety. The women were forced to be resourceful in presenting the same simple foods in a variety of interesting ways. She watched food grow on her family’s farm and worked to help it develop into a sound and abundant harvest. She learned to store and preserve a summer’s plenty to last through the winter months. And she acquired from her parents a deep appreciation for the goodness of earth’s bounty…”

Sure enough, Volume II of Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking” offers a recipe for Muskrat Fricasse—as well as antelope, deer and beaver. It also has a recipe for Hasenpfeffer which I won’t ever be trying. Hasenpfeffer was the bane of my childhood. If you came home from school and smelled it cooking, you knew we were having it for dinner and there was no escape.

Also offered in Volume II are recipes for raccoon, squirrel, woodchuck and turtle. Meta lost me at “evisceration and removal of feathers, removal of fur….” But you know what? Of all the comprehensive cookbooks in my collection, these are surely the most detailed (everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask?  I wasn’t afraid to ask—I just never wanted to KNOW).

Elsewhere on Google, someone wrote, “My mother was only 17 years old when she got married.    Somewhere in that time, she was given a special two volume cookbook set called Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking.  It was a true cookbook of the 50’s, offering advice so basic, the author must have assumed many of her readers couldn’t boil water.  Until Julia Child altered my mother’s views on food, Meta Given’s was the only cookbook in our home.  The recipes were so simple and straightforward, I learned to cook from them at a very young age.  By the time I was nine years old I could make real fudge, basic one-bowl cakes, quick breads, and peanut butter cookies all by myself.  I also learned to make a pumpkin yeast bread when I was slightly older.  Over the years my mother’s Meta Given’s cookbook disintegrated into a pile of loose pages. However, I was able to track down a used set several years ago. Although most of the recipes seem outdated, it was quite an experience just holding the cookbook while childhood memories rushed back…”

The following single line clue was also found on Google: “When not penning cookbooks, Ms. Given—I don’t think she’d approve the title, but an extensive Google search fails to reveal her marital status— taught Home Ec at the University of Chicago in the post-World War II years…”

Maybe Meta Given tired of teaching in Chicago and returned to her home in Missouri.  We may never know- but if you are interested in finding her books, there are umpteen sites to choose from as you browse through Google.

I have the following:

  • The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942
  • Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Volumes 1 and II published in 1947
  • The Modern Family Cook Book, published in 1953

As well as the following, which I do not have:

On August 10, 2011 someone named Don posted the following comment:

Hi Sandy, Please let me know if you ever find out what happened to Meta Given. I have been going through some old family letters and it turns out that my great aunt, Helen Swadey, was her assistant in the 40′s and 50′s. She would help with the writing and arranging the final meals for the photo shoot. Thanks!  Don

I sent Don the following message: “Hi, Don – how interesting that your great aunt worked for Meta Given! I HAVEN’T learned anything more than what I wrote but maybe someone will read this and write, if they know anything else about her. Oddly enough I have had emails from a number of people, in response to other cookbook authors I have written about – so there’s always a possibility that someone will see the inquiry and shed some light on this prolific and excellent cookbook author. Now, that would have been a job I’d have loved – assistant to Meta Given! Let me know if you learn anything else.

 On February 2, someone named Brenda sent the following message to my blog:

 I am preparing a Birthday Party for my mother who turns 80 this July. We are having a picnic theme, and we are replacing my mother’s Meta Given Cookbooks with a better set. The sisters of the family are HUGE fans of Meta Given, and I am trying to find anything out about her to have it framed for my mother to put in her kitchen. She raised all of us girls using this cookbook and we all have copies!! I know I am a little late adding this comment, but can you or anyone help me out? Sincerely, Brenda

 On February 22, 20122, Karen wrote the following message: I had to comment because one of my earliest memories of Thanksgiving is my mother and grandmother quoting Meta Given about making turkey gravy: “You can only make so much fine favored gravy.” I haven’t even looked at the recipe in years, but must admit that I do know how to make fine flavored gravy and I don’t even eat gravy! Thanks Meta. I have my grandmother’s copy. My mother still has and uses her own copy. My oldest daughter has her other grandmother’s 2 book set. Over the years, I have managed to collect one of the single book editions for my sister and two copies of the 2 book sets for my sisters-in-law. Just recently, I finally got the single book edition for my youngest daughter. We are a family devoted to Meta Given, which is why I found your blog. I was looking for some information about her and started to do some research. So, if you find out anything else about her, I’d be delighted to hear it and then I will in turn share it with the rest of the family. Thanks!

 On February 25 2012, Neil sent the following message: I’m a 44-year old single guy who grew up with a mother who occasionally whipped out this tattered, index-missing BIBLE. I have no other name for it… other then the BIBLE that was in our kitchen. Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. The version I’m most familiar with is the single volume gem published in 1955 on its EIGHTEENTH printing (35,000 copies). My mom was inspired by the “White Sauce” in that book – creamed onions were a Thanksgiving tradition. Like most people who are reading this, when I finally understood the power of Google I FINALLY had a chance to have my own copy of this piece of history – it’s WAY more than a cookbook and we all know it. I paid almost $200 because I just had to have it. Since then I purchased a “backup” copy – you know… just in case. That one is in a safe room where the temperature and humidity is just right.   A few years ago I stumbled upon a dessert recipe that blew me away – Lemon Chiffon Custard on page 746 in my book. “A puffy cake-like topping and a creamy custard bottom layer.” OMG”

 On May 2, 2013, Janice King Smith sent the following message: “According to census reports she (Meta Given) returned to her hometown of Bourbios, MO, and later relocated to Florida. Being from the general area, I was happy to have The Modern Family in my collection and enjoy seeing the differences between how she prepared the meal versus what we were taught by my grandma who lived during the same time frame literally 3-4 hours away from each other.”

 On May 24, 2012 Anna wrote the following message: I am doing a little research on Meta Given… My Mother’s maiden name was Given. I was told Meta Given was a Great Aunt of mine from Missouri that wrote cookbooks, and I have all copies of her cookbooks, and learned to cook from them. The books I have were been passed down through the years from my grandmother..Ruby Given, to my mother Anna Jane Given, and now to me. I will be passing them on someday to my children and grandchildren!

On June 22, 2012 Gil wrote the following: I have the 1953 version of Meta Given’s Modern Family Cookbook. I turn to this book when I need to know how I should cook a vegetable that won’t be listed in most cookbooks and I have more than 100. I am going to cook turnips today and I want to know a cooking time. I recently checked in this book for a cooking time for beets. I have two of these books but one is so battered that I am afraid to open it.
Gil Wilbur Claymont,DE.

Now, many months later, after years of searching and speculating about  the unknown later life of Meta Given, my new-found friend, Bonnie Slotnick, who owns a cookbook store in New York** (see address at end of article) managed to unearth information about Meta that no one has been able to discover.

It turns out that food writer Jane Nickerson***, writing for the Lakeland Ledger in 1981, interviewed Meta and in an article that appeared in the December 10,m 1981 Lakeland Ledger food column, discovered “the rest of the story” –the details no one knew about Meta Given once she disappeared from the cookbook publishing limelight.

 By Jane Nickerson, writing for the Lakeland Ledger on December 10, 1081 wrote the following: “A few lines the other day in this paper reporting the death of Lakelander Meta Given in no way hinted the professionalism of that nonogenarian, [sic] author of the monumental, two-volume cookbook ‘Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.’

That brilliant work, published in 1947 by J.G. Ferguson and later distributed by Doubleday, contained in its 1969 edition 1,665 pages, 71 tables and charts, 230 photographs in black-and-white and color, 2,906 tested recipes and more than 200 drawings. Considerably in excess of a million copies are now in use.

Born and reared on a farm in the Ozarks, where, as she once put it, ‘my parents had no money,’ Miss Given remained throughout a vigorous life essentially modest and straightforward.

At 15, she had finished her own education, or so she thought, and was teaching in a rural grade school. Later she instructed high-school students in physics, chemistry and agriculture.

But she began to feel she needed more training. In 1916, she enrolled in the University of Chicago to study a subject still in its infancy at that time—home economics. She went on to work for the Evaporated milk Association, developing recipes for that trade group. Then came a stint as food editor of the Chicago Tribune”.

“But the Depression came along,” Meta told Jane in a 1975 interview, “and in 1931, the Tribune fired me. By that time I had my own test kitchen and staff and was also doing freelance work in recipe development and food photography for Kraft and other companies.

I couldn’t fire my staff. But the jobs that came along were spasmodic, and so to keep my people busy, I started them working on a household cookbook.” In 1942, J. G. Ferguson, a Chicago printer whom Miss Given had consulted, published the “Modern Family Cookbook.” From it, the encyclopedia developed.

A heart attack in the late 1940s persuaded Miss Given she should pursue a quieter life. The tall, spare, broad-shouldered woman, with a coronet of white hair, wound up her hectic career in Chicago, and retired to Florida, where, among other things, she grew oak leaf lettuce and developed recipes for pies using loquats and other local fruits.

Her inborn modesty made her hard to interview. Among the first “career women” in this century, she wore her accomplishments lightly, and could not understand why anyone should be especially interested in recording them.

This article was unearthed for us by Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks 163 West Tenth Street New York, New York 10014-3116 USA –so if you are searching for your mother or grandmother’s tried-and true-cookbook you might want to contact Bonnie.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

 UPDATE! JUNE 22 2013

 If you have ever read the above, which was posted on my blog February 11, 2011, under the title “Searching for Meta Given”, you will no doubt notice the many readers who have written about Meta Given – – mostly people who had her cookbooks or were looking for them.


*why the red italics? Because, I thought—it was because Meta couldn’t bring herself to fire her staff during a particular stringent period, she put them to work on a cookbook – a cookbook which turned out to be the nucleus of the two volume  cookbooks  published in 1947, that people are searching for still, today. Some of whom are paying big bucks for! But I get it. As all of you know, you who have some of Meta Given’s cookbooks—they are timeless, recipes you can follow from start to stop without wondering if it will turn out right. And there is hardly a topic that Meta doesn’t write about!


**Looking for a particular old cookbook? Contact Bonnie Slotnick at or at 163 W. 10th Street, NY NY 10014-3116

 ***Jane Nickerson, food writer for the Lakeland Ledger also wrote a cookbook about Florida food and recipes. Jane passed away March 2, 2000. She was employed as a food writer from 1973 to 1988 for the Lakeland Ledger.


–Review by Sandra Lee Smith with a special thank you to everyone who ever wrote to request or provide information. A special thanks to Bonnie Slotnick whose culinary sleuthing provided “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.




Rozanne Gold is back again, with another 3- ingredient cookbook, only this time it’s   “Healthy 1-2-3” which is proclaimed to be the ultimate three ingredient fat-free, low fat- low calorie cookbook.

Rozanne Gold is considered one of the most prominent figures in the world of food today. She was First Chef to New York City Mayor Ed Koch when she was only 23 years old. When this cookbook was first published in 2001, Rozanne was Chef-Director of the Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Company, best known for creating Manhattan’s Magical Windows on the World and Rainbow Room restaurants.

Rozanne was named one of America’s Top 5 Enlightened chefs by COOKING LIGHT magazine. She is also a three-time winner of the prestigious James Beard Award.

You may remember Rozanne from an earlier blog post of mine, on the trend of cookbook recipes with few and fewer ingredients. Rozanne is also the author of “LITTLE MEALS”, RECIPES 1-2-3”, “1-2-3- MENU COOKBOOK and ENTERTAINING 1-2-3” She has written a monthly column on entertaining for Bon Appétit magazine and has been a regular on television programs.  And, after I posted a review on RECIPES 1-2-3 I discovered that Rozanne has a blog on WordPress, when she read my article and re-posted it on her blog. That’s the best validation that I, a mostly unknown home cook can get, when a published cookbook author gives you a nod and acknowledgement.

When reading a cookbook (and yes, cookbook collectors do read cookbooks like other more normal avid readers read novels) I like to read “between the lines” –or, more accurately “between the recipes” to learn about the author and what prompted their book. Most of us know that cookbook recipes containing only 3, 4 or 5 ingredients (and I’ve even seen a two ingredient cookbook as well as one for 7 ingredients) are enjoying a great deal of popularity. This is understandable, given our busy lifestyles. Although my own children have all grown up and left home, I remember only too well the days of rushing home from work, tossing a load of towels into the washer, starting dinner and supervising homework. We want to put interesting healthy meals on the table but who has the time to spend hours preparing dinner?  And, although after my sons moved out and there were only two of us, I still cooked dinner every night. I’ve always believed it’s a most important meal, when the family sits down to enjoy a meal together and talk about their day at school or work.

Although you wouldn’t imagine it from the glamorous cover photo of Rozanne Gold, she writes, “As a kid, I morphed from a fat teenager into a plump adult. I hated my body and bemoaned my fate, for I was built exactly like my father (a professional fullback, no less) rather than like my svelte and glamorous mother…” (I could relate—oh, boy, how I could relate. I was a chunky teenager, unlike my blonde-and-blue eyed skinny older sister or my beautiful always on the thin side mother—I battled my weight for many years, until I became a Weight Watcher in my early 40s).

Rozanne says she loved being home alone to raid the freezer, eating as much as she could and rearranging the rest so no one would notice. Rozanne writes “In those days, I straightened my hair, parted it down the middle to cover most of my face, wore big glasses to hide the rest, and quietly wished I were dead…”

After a trip to Europe when she was 19, Rozanne decided she wanted to be a professional chef. A few years later, after battling anorexia, at the age of 23 she became the first official chef to the Mayor of New York.

After what she describes as a whirlwind year with the Mayor, Rozanne found herself in the “demanding field of restaurant consulting, working in the world’s finest restaurants. “Glamorous, perhaps,” she laments, “But I again succumbed to the ruinous temptation of being around food all the time…”

Life for Rozanne changed when she became the culinary director of the Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Company, where she was consulting chef to New York’s magical Rainbow Room which the company owned and operated from 1985 to 1999.  One of her responsibilities, she explains, was to develop “Evergreen”, a low-calorie, low-fat dining concept for members of the Rockefeller Center Club who needed to eat smarter. “In Evergreen,” explains Rozanne, we succeeded in reversing health foods bad image by applying French techniques to a handful of superlative ingredients and cooking them perfectly. The result was a healthful, sophisticated cuisine marked by daring simplicity.”  Rozanne began to lose weight.

“I also discovered,” she says, “that hidden in the world of food and wine and all its pleasures was the concept of restraint. From Joe and his partners I learned to grasp the essence of a dish, to slowly savor small amounts of anything that was offered, and to demand the best of everything.

It was about this time that Rozanne began to write cookbooks about her new and simpler style. The first was “Little Meals” followed by “RECIPES 1-2-3”,

And now, Rozanne is as svelte as her mother.

“HEALTHY 1-2-3” offers, in addition to recipes, nutritional counseling from Helen Kimmel, a master of science-registered dietitian who has collaborated with Rozanne on three earlier books.

And what recipes! You will find a wide assortment from which to choose, beginning with soups (Chilled Spring Pea Soup, Broccoli Soup with Fresh Basil Butter, Thick Fennel Soup with Spinach Pastina, Yellow Split Pea and Smoked Salmon Bisque and Sweet Potato-Rutabaga with Bacon Crisps) and ending with an array of fruits and desserts designed to tempt even the most demanding, pickiest palate. The problem will be not which one to try but which one to try first. Choose from Fresh Blueberries and Blueberry Compote, Lemon ‘Custard’, Raspberry Honey Fool, P:ineapple Shingles with Caramel, Pistachio Dust, Strawberry-Ginger Sorbet, Macerated Berries and  Ginger Chips or Cider-Poached Apples…just for openers. This is a small sampling of the dessert recipes you can serve – without guilt.

Generously sandwiched in-between, you will find a tempting array of first courses, vegetables and side-dishes from which to select. Think: Layered Flounder and Smoked Salmon, Sauteed Cod with Asparagus Veloute (I love asparagus), Bay Steamed Halibut with Lemon Oil, or how about Brined Pork Loin with Orange-Chipotle jus, Potted Leeks and Corned Beef in Riesling, Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Mustard and Rosemary, or Rib-eye Roast, Gravlax-style in which the beef is cured overnight in dill, sugar, salt and pepper, a Nordic preparation usually reserved for salmon and then roasted. There is a fine, ample chapter devoted to vegetables and side dishes, ranging from Steamed Asparagus with Wasabi Butter, Comfit of Carrots and Lemon, to Scalloped Cheese Potatoes or Rozanne’s favorite Sweet Potatoes (sure to become my favorite, too!)

One of the added bonuses to the mouth-watering recipes offered in “HEALTHY 1-2-3” is a section called “Restoratives” which I think you will love as much as I. Imagine” Mixed Berry Shrub, Watermelon Splash, Chamomile Tea with Lavender, Strawberry-Basil Elixir….and more.

Extra special treats include such yummies as Chocolate Mousse Sponge, and Cocoa Meringues (yes, you can have treats such as these and still “be on a diet”).

As an added bonus, the publishers advise, “Because all of the dishes are low in fat and/or calories, “HEALTHY 1-2-3” can promote weight loss or maintenance. If weight isn’t an issue, they suggest “simply take advantage of all the latest research on the inherent and healthful benefits of fresh, natural ingredients…”

“HEALTHY 1-2-3” FROM Stewart Tabori & Chang is wonderfully illustrated. Photographs of this fantastic cookbook are the creation of Anita Calero, whose work has appeared in many magazines, including TOWN & COUNTRY, and MARTHA STEWART LIVING. And we all understand the importance of good photographs—what’s the first thing you say when you look at a recipe with an accompanying photograph? “That looks good!” we exclaim.  And if each recipe only has three ingredients, what’s not to like – or try?

“HEALTHY 1-2-3” was first published in 2001.  I found it listed on new for $10.85, pre-owned starting at one cent, and a collectible copy for $25.00.  If you look it up on Amazon you will find some of Rozanne’s other 3-ingredient cookbooks listed.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith




Cookbooks are piling up again – time to get some cookbook reviews written–and I was thinking (yet again) how much diversity and incredible wealth of knowledge goes into  creating cookbooks. It doesn’t matter what state you live in, or what kind of cookbooks you find yourself collecting—with cookbooks there is something for everyone. I became interested in the beginning with church-and-club cookbooks because my father had given me one of those in the early 1960s after he bought them from a coworker at Formica. I was enchanted with that cookbook and wondered if there might be more of those “out there”. Now generally referred to as community cookbooks, these have a history that dates back to the American Civil War when women began collecting recipes to create cookbooks to raise money to help the war effort. It wasn’t very long before the  concept of collecting recipes for a church or club cookbook took off like a wild fire. I have written about these cookbooks before on my blog so I won’t dwell overlong on that topic except where it’s relevant to this post.

Even though I have never had the opportunity to travel along the American east coast- line (aside from living in Florida for a few years)—I am enchanted with lighthouses and what better place to find them than the east coast? (There are a pretty good number of them on the WEST coast too, some of which I have visited).  The problem has always been—much as I love to travel—almost every year, vacations have been planned around the graduations and weddings of my many nieces and nephews.

Much of what I have learned about the history of the East Coast of the United States has been gleaned from cookbooks.  “Cookbooks?” you ask. “Cookbooks” I affirm. When you pick up a cookbook titled COASTAL NEW ENGLAND FALL HARVEST COOKING by Sherri Eldridge, you just know you will be rewarded with some local history.

In the preface, Sherri Eldridge writes, “Like most of America, our origins are from different cultures, all adapting to the same environment and available foods of this unique settling ground.  People of the European continent brought not only their traditions, but also the willingness to make a home In an unknown land, where the first arrivals couldn’t even recognize edible vegetation. Intercultural cooperation and the pooling of resources contributed to the creation of the New England cuisine…”

Sherri adds that with the publication of this second edition, a nutritional analysis has been added and recipes have been adapted to meet the guidelines of the American Heart Association for healthy adults.

Under a recipe for cranapple salad with honey sauce, she writes ”The Pilgrims, a small sect of English Puritans, had been exiled to the Netherlands in 1606. In exchange for the promise of religious freedom, they agreed to establish a trading post in the New World for a group of London investors. In 1620 the Pilgrims set sail in the Mayflower, landing in November at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod”  (We ALL learned about the pilgrims and the Mayflower in grade school-but I had never read about the English Puritans being exiled to the Netherlands—have you?—or that in exchange for a promise of religious freedom, those Puritans agreed to establish a Trading Post in the New World for London investors!) This is all news to me,

Eldridge writes elsewhere “The Pilgrims settled in “Plimouth Harbor” in the early winter of 1620. Without appropriate protection from the elements, little food, and knowledge of the local vegetation and wildlife, half did not survive the first winter”. (Probably senselessly dying without knowing or trying some of the local vegetation or wildlife to survive). But, writes Eldgridge, “Just 5 years later, the resiliency and determination of the Pilgrims had established ‘Plimouth’ (sic) as a permanent colony”

Elsewhere she writes, “Up until the late 1800s, the kitchen, where the fire was kept going 24 hours a day, was the center of living in most New England homes. Some family members even slept in the kitchen, where the house was always warmest.  In a deep cubbyhole at the side of the fireplace was a brick oven, used to bake pies, breads, gems and  muffins.”

In the chapter for Breads and Baked Goods, Eldridge provides yummy recipes for light raspberry muffins, Pumpkin Bran muffins, Carrot-raisin muffins, Beer Biscuits and many other bread recipes. Other chapters include  one on salads and fresh greens—some unusual combinations you will want to try, such as Chilled Beet and Apple Salad, Ginger Cole Slaw, Boston Bean Salad, Spinach and Blood Orange Salad—and others.

Main Meal Dishes is lengthy, offering many recipes reflecting fish and seafood from the Atlantic ocean – a New England Clam Bake, How to Eat Lobster & Clams (good one for many of us!), shrimp brochettes and Downeast Deviled Crab, Savory Braised Fish and Poached Salmon in Vermouth with Artichoke Cream as well as recipes for trout, scallops and shrimp. Eldridge offers a handy tip on cooking fish – she writes “Any fish cooked by any means, generally only requires only 10 minutes of cooking time  for each inch of thickness at its thickest part” (that’s one I will want to remember!)

There are many other interesting chapters and recipes in this spiral bound cookbook – including, I’m happy to say, some recipes for jam, jelly, preserves, relish, chutney and – not to be overlooked one for Pickled Zucchini (my son has a bumper crop of squashes coming along in his garden). has copies of COASTAL NEW ENGLAND FALL HARVEST COOKING starting at one cent for pre-owned copies.  **

One of the more interesting cookbooks to cross my line of vision recently is one titled THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK, by Bill Kurtis with Michelle M. Martin. Subtitled THE   REVOLUTION TOWARDS HEALTHY BEEF, FROM THE TRAIL TO GOURMET KITCHENS provides some clues to the content.  Also listed on the cover is another sub title, WITH RECIPES FROM: *CHEF Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, *Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and PBS’s MEXICO – ONE PLATE AT A TIME, *Executive Chef Paul Katz of Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, *Will Rogers, Gene Autry and Dale Evans, *Chef David Burns o the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field, and (last but not least *Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Dodge City May Jim Sherer.

This is a most unusual cookbook and one I wish I had owned when I was writing about American pioneers some years ago. Chapter 1 entices with Native American recipes, fried meat pies—even a recipe for pemmican. Included in Chapter 1 is a fascinating story of the tallgrass cattle drive. Equally fascinating is the explanation for an old American saying – “The real McCoy”. Here’s how it came about:

“In 1867 entrepreneur Joseph McCoy had a bold idea. It came to him when he was a livestock trader in Chicago witnessing the new technology of the day—railroads—transform the American West. If he could attract the great cattle herds moving out of Texas to an intersection with the railroads through Kansas, he could multiply his business ten-fold, maybe a hundredfold.

The intersecting point on the plains of Kansas was in Abilene, in the grass-rich Flint Hills. McCoy spent $5,000 on advertising and riders to carry promotional posters to the Texas herds of longhorns already heading north. He promised that he would pay more per head in Abilene. He was so true to his word that eventually the whole nation would adopt the phrase “That’s the real McCoy!” One cattleman brought six hundred cows for which he had paid $5,400 and sold them to McCoy for $16,800….” (and now you know the rest of the story for the real McCoy but there is a great deal more to read about in the Prairie Table cookbook.

In the chapter “Prairie Cooking Today” we read that the recipes reproduced in this book are exactly as originally worded, even if they appear incorrect by today’s standards of grammar. And while researching this book, the authors learned that beef has always been an American tradition. The recipes and cooking methods may have changed but the desire for fresh, tender, succulent beef has not.

We also learn that the historical chapters will give us a glimpse of American lie in the West during the great cattle era, as well as a better appreciation of our modern conveniences.

When I was researching and writing about the American cowboy I deliberately didn’t dwell on the great cattle drives—my focus was on the individual cowboy. And there were many cookbooks and non-cookbooks to draw on. I just didn’t have THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK – it wasn’t published until 2008.

Included as well in chapter 1 of THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK is The American Indian Prairie Table—another aspect of the development of this great country that I wrote about in “Kitchens West” but co-authors Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin take the American Indian farther. (Before I go on, I just want to go on the record as saying that I believe the USA did the American Indians a great injustice. You can’t read about them without becoming drawn in, feeling their despair as all that they loved was taken away from them by the white man.    From the Journal of William Clark, dated June 10, 1804, we read his entry, “I walked out three miles, found the prairie composed of good land and plenty of water, roleing (sic) and interspursed (sic) with points of timbered land.  Those prairies are not open like those, or a number of those E. of the Mississippi void of everything except grass , they abound with Hasel (hazel) grapes and a wild plumb of a superior size and quality called the Osages Plumb, gross on a bush the hight of a Hasel and is three times the sise of other plumbs, and hang in great quantities on the bushes  I saw great numbers of deer in the prairies, the evening is cloudy, our party in high spirits…” (*I did not correct the misspelled words—these are as  they were written by the Lewis and Clark expedition!)

It continues, “With the stroke of a pen, President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the young American nation when he purchased the untapped Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte of France. He couldn’t explore it himself so he dispatched Captain William Clark and Lieutenant Meriwether Lewis to be his eyes and ears.  Carrying peace medals, blankets, beads, and assorted trinkets they kept detailed journals of their daily progress and observation of the vast lands that would become the American West.

Needless to say, no one consulted any of the American Indian tribes about the Louisiana Purchase.  Among the most striking of these people were the Osage, located in present day Kansas and Oklahoma. Even before Lewis and Clark, explorers like John Bradbury, an Englishman, described them in mythical terms:

The Osages are so tall and robust as almost to warrant the application of the term gigantic; few of them appear to be under six feet, and many are above it. Their shoulders and visages are broad which tend to strengthen the idea of their being giants”.

There are some interesting easy Indian recipes which include a Cherokee recipe for Egg Soup and Wild Grape Dumplings, as well as a “Gritted Sweet Potatoes” – “Gritted” had nothing to do with southern grits—“gritted” was a word for peeled.  Some pioneer recipes offer a recipe for Scrapple which isn’t all that easy to find anymore, except in some very old cookbooks

Chapter 2 is titled DINING WITH THE ARMY and this is another area not-much explored by food historians, aside from some very good books about what soldiers existed on throughout the Civil War. Authors Bill Kurtis and Michelle M. Martin write “Army life was built around the bugle call. It woke men in the morning, guided posting of the colors and told men when to eat, work, and sleep. The army also understood that food, one of the soldier’s few enjoyments, needed to be regimented. Each soldier in garrison received a daily ration of bread, salt pork, vegetables, if available and other items provided by the army through the Quartermaster. These rations were supposed to last a man for an entire month. Once a soldier’s rations ran out, he would be expected to procure supplies for himself from the post sutler.

(I immediately had to google “sutler” as this was a term with which I was unfamiliar. Wikipedia tells us:

sutler or victualer was a civilian merchant who sold provisions to an army in the field or in camp or quarters. Sutlers sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent allowing them to travel along with an army to remote military posts. Sutler’s wagons were associated with the military while chuck wagons served a similar purpose for civilian wagon trains. (And were undoubtedly the first “general stores” in a region).

Google also tells us that the word, sutler, like numerous other naval and military terms, came into English from Dutch where it appears as soetelaar or zoetelaar.  Originally, it meant “one who does dirty work, a drudge, a scullion, and derives from zoetelen (to foul, sully modern Dutch bezoedelen, a word cognate with “suds” (hot soapy water) “seethe” (to boil) and sodden. I have the feeling that the word – sutler – however it originated, may have drifted far afield.

Returning to Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin, “The sutler on any military post sold everything from fabric to food stuffs and had a monopoly over the sale of goods not provided to soldier by the Quartermaster supply. Any soldier could purchase goods against his meager salary. Nuts, fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, sugars, meats, wild game, cheese, crackers, grits, olive oil, oysters in cans and jars, pickles, licorice, rock candy and liquor were all to be found at the sutler’s store on post…”

The Kitchen philosophy from the United States Army manual for cooks, dated 1883, stresses “Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets, and fats more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than anything else in the world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer and scour are the true secrets of cooking…”

Imagine my surprise, finding a recipe in The Prairie Table Cookbook for Fort Laramie Slumgullion! (My blog post for slumgullion stew is still one of my readers’ favorite articles. I posted it in 2009 and it still receives messages—slumgullion stew is many different things to many different people throughout the country.

To make Fort Laramie Slumgullion, you will need stew meat, potatoes, turnips, onions, any additional foraged vegetables, pepper and salt and water. Parboil the meat until tender. Add to boiling pot vegetables cut into pieces. Add water to sufficiently cover ingredients. Pepper and salt mixture and then boil until done, about 1 hour.

Chapter 3 is titled “Moving West” and this is a topic I have delved deeply in, in the past—but I appreciate and enjoy getting a new “take” on prairie settlers. There are recipes for roast beef, spiced beef, another roast beef and beef steaks as well as Fried Rabbit, Baked Prairie Chicken and French Stew. What I found most interesting is a page dedicated to a topic we have been writing about ever since I started a blog. It shows a close up of a couple of recipes and the authors write “Many housewives kept books in which they clipped recipes from newspapers, wrote down household hints, wrote their own poems and daily reflections, and crafted their own unique recipes for their families. Kitty Hayes Houghton was one such woman. Her notes, ideas on self-improvement, newspaper clippings on important issues, and recipes provide a glimpse   into the Flint Hills ranching lifestyle. The…recipes from Kitty and other pioneer wives, were found on tattered pages in between self-help columns, advertisements for dyspepsia cures, notes on hospitality, and poetry, and short stories written by women with much imagination and creativity”  (Haven’t I written about manuscript cookbooks and battered, tattered pages of an old church cookbook—possibly ad nauseum since this is a favorite topic.

Chapter 4 is the Cowboy Table on the Trail and this is another topic I have explored with you on my blog – but books like The Prairie Table Cookbook bring fresh outlooks on these subjects, along with photographs. New recipes and text offer readers a new take on what may be an old subject – but it’s never boring. Check out Helava Chili and Chuck Wagon Scrapple. You may want to try Ranch House Pot Roast and don’t overlook Squirrel Can Stew (no squirrel—it’s made with a sirloin steak but the “Squirrel can, I discovered was the name given to an empty lard can that sat next to the chuck wagon.    Cowboys scraped their plates into this can before putting their dishes in the “wreck” pan (a dish pan for washing). This was used to keep the camp more sanitary and clean. Cowboys would make remarks and crack jokes about food and coffee tasting as if the cookie had just dipped from the squirrel can. Joking aside, there was a code of conduct that cowboys were to observe with respect to eating and etiquette in camp. Breaking these camp commandments could get you in trouble with cookie and every cowboy knew that cookie was the one man everyone respected and wanted to please. If cookie wasn’t happy, no one was happy! – from the Prairie Table Cookbook.

The foregoing is just a sample of what you will find in The Prairie Table Cookbook.  THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK was published in 2008 is available on with prices starting at one cent for a pre owned copy, or $2.47 for a new copy.   **

Next on my list of cookbooks (as we make our way from Sea to Shining Sea, is one titled THE BEST OF SIMPLY COLORADO COOKBOOK published by the Colorado Dietetic Association. This is a beautiful spiral bound cookbook with concealed rings (not visible from the outside of the book). In the 1980s, members of the Colorado Dietetic Association embarked on a fantastic journey into the world of cookbook publishing. The result and final destination: Simply Colorado: Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, published in 1989. The overwhelming success of Simply Colorado led to a second book, called Simply Colorado, Too! More Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, released in 1999. (Not surprisingly) sales of these books scored above the 150,000 mark. Simply Colorado led with more than 125,000 copies sold—a milestone for any coobook.

To celebrate their success, the members of the Colorado Dietetic Association did what any  successful fundraising group will do—they published a third cookbook, titled The Best of Simply Colorado. In this cookbook, which I am reading through now, the Association combined favorite recipes from both cookbooks. Reflecting changes in dietary guidelines, eating habits and food choices, The Best of Simply Colorado offers  the quick and easy tasty and healthy recipes you expect from Colorado’s food and nutrition experts (registered dietitians)

Also, recognizing that Colorado continues to be a cultural crossroads, The Best of Simply Colorado includes an assortment of recipes from the desert Southwest to the fragrant and flavorful Orient.

Published in 2006, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are those for 2005—not too drastic of a change for us in 2013.  There is even a page on modifying your favorite recipes. Now, I know pretty well how to modify most of my favorite recipes, but do you?

There are charts for substitutions, which you will find useful – and from there venture forth into a wide selection of appetizers, snacks and beverages, ranging from interesting recipes such as Cripple Creek Caviar (can you guess what the secret ingredient is?) tp Smoked Salmon Pate, beverages such as Mock Sangria and hot appetizers like savory stuffed mushrooms and stuffed mushrooms Florentine.

There is a recipe I can’t wait to try, called Southwestern Layered Dip—perfect for your next party.  Next chapter is simply titled “Brunch” but the  twenty-five brunch recipes are anything but—I don’t mean to imply that the recipes are “simple” – but rather simply wonderful—a glorious presentation of brunch casserole and crustless vegetable cheese pie, breakfast burritos to an assortment of coffee cakes and pancakes, waffles and smoothies.  These will become your instant go-to cookbook recipes every time you plan a brunch or breakfast. (I used to do a lot of these when my sons were younger—not so much anymore but it’s always good to know where to turn when a brunch beckons.  Or, if you are invited to a brunch and wanted to contribute something.—perhaps French Coffee Cake or Rhubarb Coffee Cake!

This is just a sampling of the Best of Simply Colorado; there are chapters on Soups and Stews, Salads, Vegetables, Breads, Muffins & Scones, Grains & Legumes, Fish & Seafood, Poultry, Meats, Vegetarian Entrees—and Desserts. Get out a package of those little square post-it notes to mark the pages you want to try. You will surely need an entire package of post-its.

The Best of Simply Colorado is available brand-new from for $12.42.  Pre-owned copies are available starting at $1.58 and up.  **

Lastly, arriving on the Pacific coast, I want to share with you a cookbook that I reviewed previously for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange—it was a joy to review. I love, love, love that part of California and would love to live there. Maybe in another life? **


Regional winner of the 1994 Tabasco Cookbook Award is a beautifully composed cookbook titled FEAST OF EDEN, from the Junior League of Monterey County, California.

The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc., is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc. reaches out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to voluntarism. Currently there are 140 active members and 302 sustaining members of the Junior League.

The Junior League has been actively working to improve Monterey County for 60 years. Our hands-on approach has enriched our community through the development of past League projects, including The Family Service Agency (started as the Family Resource Center), The Salinas Adult Day Care Center, the Monterey County Youth Museum (MY Museum), and the Silent Witness Exhibit. JLMC is also represented on the executive board of the United Way of Monterey County’s Success By 6 project.

FEAST OF EDEN is a lovely and appropriate play on names since its famous native son, John Steinbeck, wrote EAST of EDEN and a number of other wonderful books about the Monterey Peninsula.  If you are not familiar with them, DO read CANNERY ROW, TORTILLA FLATS, OF MICE AND MEN, SWEET THURSDAY and, of course, EAST OF EDEN. You will come to love, as did I, the village of Carmel by the Sea, the town of Monterey, Carmel Valley and Salinas, all places Steinbeck loved and wrote about.

I visited the Monterey Peninsula for the very first time in 1979 with a girlfriend who had spent summer vacations there as a very young child. We wandered the cobblestone streets of Carmel, with its old-fashioned street lights, meandering in and out of hundreds of cubby-hole shops and stores. We dined in tiny little restaurants, some with fireplaces, and sometimes at little street-side tables, people-watching while we dined on shrimp or pasta.

The village of Carmel is indescribable. It has been, for decades, an artists’ colony, but it is also a great tourist attraction, and once you visit, you will know why. I’d give my eyeteeth to be able to live there.

Meanwhile, share with me, for a few minutes, a love of Monterey and the presentation by the Junior League of Monterey County.

I confess to being partial; the Monterey Peninsula is one of my favorite spots on earth. Whenever possible, Bob and I would head north to camp in Carmel Valley and shop in the quaint village of Carmel. I have several black and white framed photographs of Point Pinos, the lighthouse on the Monterey Peninsula, that I printed and framed myself. They are on my bedroom walls, always beckoning.  When I am there, I feel like I am at home.

I can easily visualize, when – in the Introduction – the compilers of FEAST
OF EDEN tell us “Where the Santa Lucia Mountains separate the fields of Salinas from the Pacific Ocean, lies the garden paradise of Monterey County, California….life in Monterey County is highly textured. From the rocky cliffs of the agriculture fields of Salinas, to the thatched roofs of story book Carmel, to the diamond sparkle of the aquamarine waters of Pebble Beach..”

Accompanying  a rich array  of recipes which range from the elegant–Custard Baked French Toast…Spicy Grilled London Broil…Crab Cakes with Charon* sauce,  to the sublime—Baked Salmon with Tomato, Cucumber and Basil, Scallop Lasagna, or Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake…are colorful vignettes of life in Monterey county, which will enable you to understand a bit my love of this particular region  in California.  (*Charon Sauce is made with egg yolks, lemon juice and fresh Tarragon. I’m guessing it is closely related to Hollandaise sauce but with the addition of Tarragon. I was unable to find Charon Sauce on,).

Other recipes you might want to try – Zesty Crab and Artichoke Dip,  Eggplant Bruschetta, or perhaps the Tomato and Bacon Bruschetta – Monterey Phyllo Triangles, Thai Meatballs, Pastures of Heaven Salad or Steinbeck Country Salad. Feast on Praline Breakfast Rolls or Apple Spice Muffins—or try the Chocolate Zucchini Cake that I think I am going to make with the zucchini my sister brought over.

FEAST OF EDEN provides many vignettes about life in Monterey County.  Read, for instance, that “Early Carmel-by-the Sea had few telephones, no electricity, no paved roads and the rudimentary wooden sidewalks lined only Ocean Avenue…but to many it was a refuge from an increasingly technological world…” or that “Life in Carmel in the 1920s and 1930s was both carefree and communal. Villagers might meet each other at all times of the day or night in all kinds of dress.

Author Mary Austin would roam the woods dressed as an Indian Princess in Greek robes. Each day, city residents would greet each other in their bathrobes at the milk stations – sets of shelves set up where residents would leave money at night and pick up their milk in the morning”.

FEAST OF EDEN with over 225 triple-tested recipes featuring healthy, fresh ingredients, is beautifully done, with wonderful color photographs of various dishes, and many of the historical sites for which Monterey County is so famous.

SANDY’S COOKNOTE:  The above was written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, probably in 1994 or 1995. When the cookbook was first published in 1994, it sold for $19.95.  It is available on new starting at $4.83, and pre-owned starting at one cent (remember that  book purchases from private vendors always carry a $3.99 shipping & handling charge.)

Since 1994, I don’t remember how many more trips Bob & I would make to Monterey. Once, we made the trip in a Chinook I had bought, and we camped in Carmel Valley. It was our favorite place to visit.

Now we have traveled from coast to coast, from Sea to Shining Sea–computer style!

–Sandra Lee Smith




SOME OF MY FAVORITE STEVEN RAICHLEN COOKBOOKS are never far from reach although I have to admit, a lot of my cookbooks are grouped by categories (vegetarian, meat, chicken & poultry, appetizers, Barbeque cookery, and a large collection of foreign cookbooks) so it presents a bit of a challenge when I want to revisit a cookbook author and have to start searching all over the house to find the books he/she has written. I was able to go right to The Barbecue Bible (1998)—because all the barbecue books are together on one shelf–but I’m going to have to start a dedicated search tomorrow morning.

The truth is, I have cookbooks on all the walls in three bedrooms, half of the walls in the living room and maybe half of the library space in the garage library that Bob created for me before he was felled by cancer.  One of my ambitions is to convert a larger section of the garage library into favorite cookbook authors. They have outgrown the wall in a spare bedroom. My problem with favorite cookbook authors is that – when I find one I like – I am not satisfied to simply read what they have written – I want to own the books as well. My collection starts out with Ida Bailey Allen (A) and works its way to Myra Waldo (W) – and I have written about these favorite authors on my blog (I LOVE YOU IDA BAILEY ALLEN, WHERE EVER YOU ARE, and WHERE’S WALDO?)  The challenge comes from searching for the books written by favorite authors and trying to discover little known facts about their lives – as in Myra Waldo, who disappeared from the public eye after writing dozens of terrific cookbooks–and only in the past few years was I able to learn the rest of Myra Waldo’s story. Sometimes learning “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey would say, is as fascinating as the search itself.

All this being said, what I actually wanted to do today is share Steven Raichlen’s HIGH-FLAVOR LOW-FAT APPETIZERS—because who doesn’t love a good appetizer?

Raichlen, who was born in Nagoya, Japan, grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He got a degree in French literature from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and won a Watson Fellowship which enabled him to move to Paris to study medieval cooking in Europe. (I’m perplexed that he has never published anything – as did Lorna Sass – about medieval European cooking).

At any rate, Raichlen attended Barbecue University*, designed a line of grilling accessories and ended up on Chappaquiddick Island where his most recent achievement is the publication of a book of fiction, titled “Island Apart”—which is what Chappaquiddick means in the Wampanoag language.

*As for Barbecue University—I wondered—is there really such a place?  This was a “gotchal, for sure. Raichlen is the founder of “Barbecue University”, which offers three-day intensive courses on live fire cooking at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs.

But before Chappaquiddick, Raichlen moved to Miami—where he found the time to get married, father two children and write a slew of cookbooks.

But getting back to Raichlen’s series of “HIGH-FLAVOR LOW-FAT” cookbooks—HIGH-FLAVOR LOW-FAT APPETIZERS was published in 1997 by Viking, a division of Penguin, USA, Cookbooks. (I have four of the series, which I reviewed in the late 1990s for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange).  All of the books contain photographs by Greg Schneider, a man who raised food photography to a high art—any one of his illustrations would look beautiful, matted and framed and hanging on a dining room wall.

Steven Raichlen has won five James Beard awards for his cookbooks. High-Flavor, Low-Fat Cooking won the 1993 award for Best Light and Healthy Cookbook, and his follow-up, High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking, won the 1996 award for Best Vegetarian Cookbook. In 1999, Healthy Latin Cooking won the award for Healthy Focus. He also earned the 2001 JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION/KITCHENAID BOOK AWARD FOR HEALTHY JEWISH COOKING.   More recently his 780-page book, BBQ USA, won the 2004 award for Tools and Techniques.

In 2003, Bon Appetit named Raichlen “Cooking Teacher of the Year,” the same year that The Barbecue Bible, based on his four years of research while traveling 150,000 miles through 25 countries on five continents, won an IACP Julia Child Award. (I imagine Raichlen has enough cookbook awards to paper all the walls of his home office).

All this being said, let’s take a look at Steven Raichlen’s HIGH-FLAVOR LOW-FAT APPETIZERS since, as we all know, appetizers, or hors d’oeuvres come first. (I am always reminded, when I speak of hors d’oeuvres, of a young man who rented a guest house from us years ago, and called them Horses’ ovaries.)

I have to confess, though, that I am a sucker for cookbooks on appetizers. After years of throwing parties and spending days—nay, weeks –poring over cookbooks, digging through recipe boxes, planning and shopping and preparing food, then making myself a wild woman with the logistics of trying to cook everything with only one stove and four burners—and serve it all hot (or in some cases, chilled).  Well, not too many years ago, I made a happy discovery that parties planned entirely around appetizers work extremely well.

“The appetizers of today,” explains Mr. Raichlen, “are high in flavor, low in fat, and International in inspiration. Nutrition-minded eaters are discovering a bold new world of flavors—quesadillas from Mexico, Bruschette from Italy, Sates from Southeast Asia…”

“For that matter,” says Raichlen, “our whole attitude towards finger fare has changed. Once considered an adjunct to a meal, appetizers are more and more becoming a meal in themselves. Call it grazing—or Tapas or Dim Sum…”

Raichlen writes that it’s his favorite way of eating. Mine, too. It’s also my favorite way of serving guests.

Mr. Raichlen says that this book was inspired in part by a friend, Miami journalist Jane Wooldridge. He describes her as “An avid party giver, gracious hostess, and enthusiastic supporter of the High-Flavor, Low-Fat philosophy”. For several years, Jane urged him to write a High-Flavor, Low-Fat appetizer book and he says it was a good reason—that while most of us have adopted a healthier low-fat diet for our everyday meals, too often we subject our family and friends to a fat assault when we entertain.

Raichlen provides us with a variety of techniques for trimming the fat from party fare. He says that readers of his previous High-Flavor, Low-Fat books will recognize many of the techniques he uses in this book to create bold flavors with little or no fat. One is a generous use of herbs and spices to replace the richness once achieved with animal fats. Another is the use of chicken or vegetable stock instead of oil or butter to create moist, creamy dips and spreads.

There are other techniques that can be used in preparing High-Flavor, Low-Fat party fare. Raichlen suggests yogurt cheese and low and no-fat cottage cheese and cream cheese for making dairy based dips and spreads. If your fat budget allows it, he suggests using the low-fat product. It has much more flavor than the no-fat version—but he is quick to add that nonfat dairy products can produce some very fine food, too. For a richer, creamier texture, Raichlen advises we drain the yogurt or cottage cheese in a yogurt strainer (or a cheesecloth lined strainer) before using. Yogurt can be drained in as little as 4 hours, but the resulting yogurt cheese will be firmer and drier if you start the previous night.

Raichlen notes that egg whites have the same jelling and leavening properties as whole eggs, without the fat of the yolk (and egg white products are available everywhere now). He uses them in a variety of dishes, from fillings to custards. Egg whites are the active ingredient in such egg substitutes as Egg Beaters. I consider myself a purist so you might be surprised to find recipes in this book that call for egg substitutes. The reason is simple: egg substitutes are more than 95% egg whites, and there’s no appreciable difference in taste.

Everyone loves crisp finger food at cocktail parties—but not the fat associated with deep frying.  While working on this book, Raichlen discovered that wonton skins and ravioli wrappers could be baked instead of deep-fried. The result is a crackling-crisp crust with very little fat. And Asian wrappers are a lot quicker and easier to use than filo dough. Raichlen calls this method of cooking “oven frying.”

He also says that garlic, spices and chili peppers are a great way to achieve flavor without fat. He says he has a rather high tolerance for intense flavors and chili hellfire and has tried to suggest a range of this ingredient for people who may have more timid palates. Raichlen suggests you start with the minimum quantity of these flavorings and add more as needed.

He provides some general observations on party planning, and writes that “the French term hors d’oeuvre literally means “outside the main work.”  “But there’s no reason to dismiss this,” Raichlen writes, “the most diverse branch of cooking, as secondary or unessential. Although great hors d’oeuvres can’t guarantee a great party, it’s harder to have one without them. Besides, interesting party fare certainly gives people something to talk about…”

Something else I learned early on, about a cocktail, or hors d’oeuvre-themed party—whenever someone asks “what can I bring?” (As many guests do), you can respond with “your favorite appetizer” – or if the anticipated guest says he or she doesn’t know how to make any appetizers – then I suggest a bottle of their favorite wine. (Bob and I invariably ended up, after one of these parties, with more bottles of wine than we knew what to do with). But we had a bar in the den and our closest friends were always happy to become bartenders for the party.

Raichlen suggests choosing dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature—or those that can be cooked or warmed at the last minute (while Bob had volunteers tending bar in the den, I always had a couple of girlfriends donning aprons and helping to keep the dining room table amply supplied),  Raichlen notes that your place as host is with your guests, not in the kitchen—and with an appetizer party, you will be able to do this.

Raichlen also suggests keeping the menu as interesting as the conversation; balance hot and cold, soft and crunchy, Eastern & Western. “Whether you plan to serve 4 items or 14,” he writes, “offer a variety of flavors, textures and temperatures.”  He likes to balance hot offerings, like dumplings and quesadillas, with cold ones, like dips based on yogurt or sour cream. He notes that soft creamy spreads make a nice contrast to crunchy pastries and vegetable sticks.

He also writes “When it comes to planning a party spread, remember that good things come in small packages. Small means bite-size hors d’oeuvres that can be popped into the mouth without interrupting the conversation. “For the convenience of your guests and the cleanliness of your carpets, make sure that passed fare can be consumed in one or two bites. Otherwise, provide plates and cutlery. (We always kept sturdy paper plates on hand with the array of appetizers laid out on the dining room table). When we ran out of one kind of hors d’oeuvre, one of my kitchen helpers quickly replaced it with a fresh array from the oven or – for contrast – something chilled.

HIGH-FLAVOR LOW-FAT APPETIZERS starts out with dips, Chips, and Vegetable Sticks which includes a recipe for a New Guacamole and Savannah Salsa – the latter made with cooked black eyed peas. Salsa recipes, you must surely have noticed, have branched out far and wide over the past couple of decades. Raichlen provides a recipe for Mango Salsa and another for Three-Tomato Salsa.

Vegetable sticks with dry dips includes a recipe for Cajun Dip and another for Greek Dip. Another sure-to-be-a-favorite is a recipe for Shanghai Dip, as well as a Provencal Dip (some of these recipes can be made up well in advance. I save all small glass jars and bottles to mix ingredients for recipes such as these, put them into small jars and label them. Spreads for Breads includes a Fig Tapenade and Sun-Dried Tomato Tartar, Roasted-Vegetable “Caviar” (made with eggplant) and Spicy Walnut Spread served with Pumpernickel Toast Points.

Wraps and Rolls feature Santa Fe “Sushi”, Crab Quesadilla, Scallion Blintzes and Buttermilk Crepes while under Dumplings and Pastries you will find Empanadas (Hispanic Meat Pies) and Samosas (Indian Spiced Potato Turnovers)—and one of my favorites Seafood Pot Stickers with Honey Soy Dipping Sauce. These are a few of the many recipes sure to whet not only your appetite, but that of your cocktail guests as well.

And here’s the part that will really catch your attention. HIGH-FLAVOR LOW-FAT APPETIZERS is available on, new, $2.02, collectible 99c, or pre-owned, starting at one cent. (Remember that will charge you $3.99 for shipping and handling when you purchase a book from a private vendor—still, where else will you find something this great for four dollars?











THE BARBECUE BIBLE, (Julia Child Cookbook Awards Winner) 1998







BBQ USA 2003









This list is undoubtedly incomplete because every time I think I have the entire collection listed, I find a reference to yet another.  I didn’t include “Island Apart” because it isn’t a cookbook. You may want to read it anyway!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith