Category Archives: FAVORITE RECIPES


I posted this originally in 2011–I think I have a lot of new subscribers who might not be familiar with the blog post.

When we discovered we would have to move, in 2008, I was able to spend most of three months “dismantling” the house in which my significant other, Robert, (no relation to Uncle Bob) & I had lived for 19 years. When we moved into that house on my birthday in 1989, we had a great deal less than what we managed to accumulate in the nineteen years that followed. We had far fewer books, for one thing, and many less cookie jars. A friend helped Robert & my son, Kelly, and I move from a little bungalow in Van Nuys to the sprawling house in Arleta. We had so much space in that big old house, we didn’t think we’d ever fill it up. But fill it up we did.

Anything anyone didn’t want any longer—we happily accepted. My dining room table & chairs – once belonged to the mother of my friend, John. My kitchen table sat in the backyard of my friend Luther until we coaxed his landlady to let me have it. I have bookcases that had belonged to my former coworker, Mary Jo, and an old coffee table that I love was once my friend, Mary Jaynne’s. Mary Jaynne & her husband Steve also once owned the bar that is now in my family room.

Friends & family members knew we’d take any and all cast-offs, and the house on Arleta Avenue was truly a house of castoffs. You could go from room to room pointing out which pieces of furniture had once belonged to someone else. We filled the walls in almost all of the rooms with bookcases and filled the bookcases with books—mostly cookbooks. The only rooms without bookcases were the kitchen, pantry, laundry room and bathrooms. Bookcases even filled the hallway.

Well, moving from 3000 square feet (roughly) to 1500 square feet is a challenge. We’ve been in our new digs for almost three years and are still getting settled. And many things had to be sold or given away. The Lancaster and Burbank Friends of the Library have received boxes and boxes of books and the Boy Scouts of Palmdale received truck loads of things for their rummage sale.

I am telling you all of this because I want it understood that I know a little about dismantling a house—but Uncle Bob’s house was unquestionably a far greater challenge for my girl friend, on whose shoulders responsibility for the house fell, along with her husband, Steve sister Diane, and brother Ron.

Uncle Bob, who was formally known as Robert G. Mooney, didn’t have any children of his own. He did have a loving wife with whom he shared his life for 52 years and I’m told theirs was a true lifelong love story. Their niece, Mary Jaynne, – my best friend – used to spend summers at their house when she was a child, and because she was the closest relative to Uncle Bob, finding a new home for Uncle Bob – who could no longer live alone – fell on Mary Jaynne’s broad shoulders. She, her husband Steve, and sister, Diane, found an assisted living facility that met with Uncle Bob’s approval and bit by bit they got him settled in his new home.

I first learned about Uncle Bob years ago when MJ asked us to save all the little pull tabs on cans of aluminum soft drinks or beer. Uncle Bob was a member of Foresters and as a project, the group collected the pop tops and donated the money to Ronald McDonald’s House. They collected over 4, 000,000 tops and Uncle Bob counted every one of them.

We began saving all the pop tops and would give them to MJ once or twice a year. Mary Jaynne discovered, when they began cleaning out his garage, four more boxes about 14”x14” and about 12” tall, full of the can tops. She took them to the Ronald McDonald house in Bakersfield.

Then it became Mary Jaynne’s next responsibility to dismantle Uncle Bob’s house.

How does anyone even begin to dismantle a house in which the occupants lived for over fifty years? It was surely the most daunting task MJ ever took on. They had yard sales and sold things for next to nothing. Mary Jaynne tried to find homes with people like me for the things that had been Uncle Bob & Aunt Joey’s treasures, people who were sure to love and appreciate them. After a lengthy search she found Aunt Joey’s recipe box. Aunt Joey was Uncle Bob’s wife who died from Alzheimer’s in a nursing home when her loving husband could no longer take care of her.

I inherited Aunt Joey’s recipe box – and a handwritten recipe journal – along with some cookbooks and stacks of recipe clippings – and (be still my heart!) close to a dozen old, 50s style aprons that I have washed & ironed and hope to have posted on my blog. I also inherited a wonderful old 1950s deviled egg dish and some 50s tins; I am still working my way through the treasures that found their way to my door.

Aunt Joey had recipes – but, surprise, surprise! So did Uncle Bob! They both enjoyed cooking and I’m told that Aunt Joey was a wonderful cook. Uncle Bob lent a hand mostly with barbecuing but also for get-togethers with their church.

Uncle Bob was in the army from 1942 to 1945 and he was an army cook. I have in front of me several army cook manuals – the Technical Manual for the Army cook, dated April 24, 1942, a smaller manual dated July 1, 1942, a Baking Manual for the Army Cook dated October 5, 1943 and a Technical Manual for cutting up beef, dated July 1, 1943 (that could start with “take one cow”). I like the recipes for cookies – for oatmeal cookies you will need 5 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of lard, 5 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of oatmeal—oh yeah, a pound of raisins and six eggs. (I hope the army had industrial electric mixers to put this cookie dough together! I certainly hope that the army cooks didn’t have to mix everything by hand!)

Another item from Uncle Bob’s pantry is a tea caddy that is the size of a small child’s ball—but absolutely perfect for someone like myself, who makes various pickled fruits from time to time—pickled watermelon and Hot Hawaiian pineapple pickles, pickled cherries and sometimes pickled cantaloupe.

Along with the army manuals is a “Service Writing Tablet” with Robert G. Mooney printed neatly at the top of the cover. This appears to be a school writing tablet for prospective army cooks (I had no idea that the army cooks had special training—but it makes perfect sense). The pages are full of handwritten recipes and directions, written in pencil, and on the last page, in large red handwriting are the words “Very Good!” written, presumably, by the army class teacher.

Aunt Joey’s family was Italian and so her small cookbook collection leans towards Italian recipes. Italian food was also Uncle Bob’s favorite. And, Aunt Joey’s Italian mother lived with them for about ten years, back in the day, and she made Italian “gravy” every Sunday morning so they could have spaghetti and Italian gravy (I would call it a sauce) with whatever was on the menu for Sunday night dinner.

Also, Aunt Joey & Uncle Bob got married in 1943, when World War II was in full swing. Wheatless Wednesdays and Meatless Mondays were encouraged by the government as a way of everybody being able to “do their part” in some small way. (And if you were Catholic, there were meatless Fridays, as well.) Aunt Joey’s collection of recipes contains a number of meatless recipes, such as cashew loaf and cashew patties.

Here, then, are a few recipes from Aunt Joey’s recipe box, written in her own beautiful handwriting:

For fun, here is Aunt Joey’s recipe for Cashew Loaf (presumably cashews were a lot cheaper in 1942 than they are today):


Mix all together baked in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes:
½ onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 #2 can Chinese noodles
1 cup whole raw cashews
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ soup can water
½ cup American cheese (grated)
Optional: ½ can diced fried chicken


Combine, form balls & brown in oven:
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 cup bread crumbs
5-6 eggs
1 onion, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ tsp sage
½ tsp poultry seasoning
1 TBSP soy sauce
¾ cup grated cheese
While the meat balls are browning in the oven make a sauce of
1 small can tomato juice
1 can stewed tomatoes
½ cup chopped onion
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp salt
½ tsp parsley
½ cube butter (half of one stick. One stick of butter or margarine is 4 ounces. Half that would be 2 ounces)
Pour sauce over balls and heat in oven until hot & bubbly.

(*Sandy’s cooknote—if there is too much grease in the pan, I would drain off the excess before adding the sauce—also, there is no meat in these meatballs.)

From one of Aunt Joey’s cookbooks, titled “Favorite Italian Cookbook/from Northern to Southern Italy/500 Special Edition Recipe/sponsored by the Los Angeles District Council of the Italian Catholic Federation” (a title that is almost as long as those on very old cookbooks from the early 1900s) I came across a recipe titled “Spaghetti Gravy” and I really felt obligated to share it with everyone.

Here, then, is Spaghetti Gravy:

1 clove garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
¾ lb ground beef, veal or both
½ lb pork sausage
3 to 4 cans canned tomatoes
6 can tomato paste
¾ cup chicken broth
3 bay leaves
¼ c. dried basil
¼ c. dried thyme
1 TBSP salt (or salt to taste)
½ tsp pepper
2 chopped onions (optional)

Brown onion, garlic and meat in hot olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer at least 1 hour. Remove bay leaves and pour over spaghetti. (my mother never put onion in her spaghetti sauce—said it was too sweet.) If uou like a darker color add red wine to sauce (1/2 cup).

ITALIAN SWISS STEAK (Bistecca Alla Italiano Svizzero)

(I often wondered where I found my recipe for the Swiss Steak, that I began making in the very early days of married life. I think now is was most likely something my sister Becky learned to cook and served to her family. Her first husband, Sam, was Italian and this recipe is similar to what I began cooking in the early 1960s. My sons all loved Swiss Steak and it was made with an inexpensive cut of beef):

1 ½ lbs round steak, 1” thick.
3 TBSP flour
1 package spaghetti sauce mix (such as French’s)
2 TBSP olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water
½ cup red wine

Cut the steak into serving pieces. Mix flour with a tablespoon of spaghetti sauce mix. Coat steak on both sides with this mixture. In a large skillet, brown meat on both sides in hot oil; remove from pan. Separate onions into rings; add to skillet & cook until lightly browned. Return steak to pan with remaining spaghetti sauce mix, sugar, water & wine. Cover pan and simmer 2 hours or until meat is tender. Serves 4.

Sandy’s cooknote: I used to add some chopped bell pepper to my Swiss steak recipe. My sons all loved Swiss steak with a big
bowl of mashed potatoes to go with.

2 cups diced fried chicken (leftover fried chicken would be good for this or you could pick up a few pieces of fried chicken at the supermarket deli section).
2 cups diced celery
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup slivered toasted almonds
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ACCENT
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 or 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
Pour mixed ingredients in a greased casserole dish. Top with 1 cup crushed potato chips or chow mein noodles and ½ cup grated cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.

AUNT JOEY’S RICE VERDE preheat oven 350 degrees


3 cups cooked rice (This would be a good recipe to use up leftover rice)
¾ lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 TBSP chopped pimiento
¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
½ cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups sour cram
½ cup sliced olives
Bake in greased casserole at 350 degrees for ½ hour, uncovered.

AUNT OLIVE’S KENTUCKY CARROT CAKE* preheat oven 350 degrees

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½ cups oil**
½ cup walnut meats, chopped (You can substitute chopped pecans if you wish)
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs (let eggs come to room temperature)
1 8½ oz can crushed pineapple, drained—save the juice

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Bake in a greased & floured pan 8×13” at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.
Icing: Combine ¼ cup butter or oleo (margarine) ½ lb powdered sugar, small package of cream cheese, ½ tsp vanilla. Beat mixture until fluffy. Fold in 2 TBSP crushed pineapple. If desired sprinkle with finely chopped nuts to garnish.

(Sandy’s cooknote: Personally, I would double everything—it’s easier to measure, too. Use ½ cup or 1 stick of butter. Use a 1 lb box of powdered sugar and an 8 ounce package of cream cheese–and if you have the time, sift the powdered sugar – it will blend better. Leave out the crushed pineapple in the icing. Add a little of the pineapple juice to make the icing the proper consistency. Use the drained crushed pineapple in the cake recipe.)

*Aunt Olive was Uncle Bob’s Aunt.

**regarding the 1½ cups cooking oil that goes into most of the old carrot cake recipes, I discovered you can substitute ¾ cup applesauce for half of the oil.

Sometimes we wonder what became of things like a recipe box full of handwritten recipes and magazine clippings, or perhaps a particular cookbook that someone had kept for years, making notations from time to time on the margins of the pages. My friend Nancy tells me that sometimes these unsung treasures end up being swept up to give to a junkman so the house can be painted and vacuumed for the next occupants. Uncle Bob can rest assured; his and Aunt Joey’s recipe collection has fallen into the right hands and will be handled with care for many years to come.

Happy Cooking & Happy cookbook (or recipe box) collecting!



They never fail to fascinate me; sometimes written on 3×5 recipe cards, generally on scraps of paper—many dating back decades. I am reminded of a time when ladies hosted luncheons or teas, to which their friends and neighbors attended, everyone dressed to a T, enjoying coffee or tea, and some of the hostess’ favorite offerings – sandwiches, perhaps, with crusts removed, and often a cake or other sweet treats – most certainly the things her guests would remark about and ask for the recipes.

One of my favorite collections of handwritten recipes are three little ring-bound notebooks in which many of her friends and neighbors’ recipes are written.

I no longer remember exactly where these came from – I think they might have been a gift from Kelly’s godfather, Roger, who knew that I loved such things and sometimes found them in thrift stores like the Salvation Army.

I have written several times about Helen’s Cookbook (please see index) – it was the first completely handwritten cookbook to come to my attention when I was in my twenties and found a used book store in Hollywood. I was buying up cookbooks for a dollar each when the owner brought out this old handwritten cookbook—I had never seen anything like it and had to buy it (I think about Ten or eleven dollars). For DECADES I didn’t know who Helen was—clues could be found inside the book—and it was those clues that led a British penpal who had access to Genealogy to identify my Helen, who, as I expected, never had children—if she had, her cookbook would have never fallen into my hands.

I have in front of me, an old hardcover notebook addressed to GRACE, 1927, from FRANK, 1928 – with a July 1988 post-it from my sister Susanne who knew (doesn’t everyone I know?) that I cherish such things. While Grace’s collection contains man6y handwritten recipes, it also has many very old magazine recipes as well. Unfortunately, most of the handwritten cookbooks in my collection are fragile; consequently, I try not to handle them too often.

Who will want them when I am gone? It’s a selective kind of collection. It was due to Helen’s cookbook that I began my own collection of handwritten (or typewritten) recipes but what started out as one 3-ring binder in 1958 or 59 has grown to more than fifty 3-ring binders; only five of them are cookie recipe collections.

It was in the 1970s when I hosted a lot of parties and tried a lot of new recipes that I started a 3 ring binder for cake recipes. And what started out as one or two recipe boxes filled mostly with cookie and cake recipes, has grown to more than two hundred recipe boxes – Bob and I were in Ventura back in the 1980s when we had the time to spend weekends scouring thrift stores and antique shops—that I found a filled recipe box, priced at $11.00. (it seems to have been the going price for such things back then) I didn’t buy it when we first spotted it – I think we went back twice before I bought it ($11 seemed like a lot at the time).

I know there is a market for filled recipe boxes so I imagine my son and daughter in law will know how to sell those off when I am gone—and I’ve tried to let them know that a lot of my cookbooks are valuable too. I’m hoping that my grandchildren will want some of these things. Maybe some of my nieces and nephews will want some of them too.

I started collecting cookbooks in 1965. There comes a time (I never dreamed it could happen) when collections simply take over. I never thought I’d see the day. There, you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth!

–Sandra Lee Smith


I’ve been going through my files looking for cookie recipes that I want to share with my Canadian penpals–and there are loads of files – five boxes of cookie recipes in recipe boxes alone; about 15 3-ring binders of cookie recipes going back to 1958 when I got married; I didn’t have cookbooks except for one Betty Crocker cookbook that was a wedding present–I began that year cutting out the Christmas recipes that were in the 1958 women’s magazines. Plus a lot of cookie cookbooks! So, I am trying to share–starting with some oatmeal cookie recipes; there may be as many oatmeal cookie recipes as there are brownie recipes!

To make Outstanding Oatmeal cookies, you will need:

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened (make sure its a solid stick margarine, like Imperial – those spreads have a high water content)
1 egg
2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup M&Ms plain chocolate candies
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut, if desired
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix brown sugar, margarine or butter. vanilla an egg in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsfull about 2″ apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Press 3 or 4 more dandies into each cookie, if desired. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly; remove to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies **

OLD FASHTIONED OATMEAL COOKIES – to make these cookies you will need:
2 1/2 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening (shortening is something like Crisco, a solid type of shortening)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1/2 cup = 1 stick butter, softened, or 1 stick solid margarine, such as Imperial)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (or else lightly grease two cookie sheets)
In a bowl combine oats, flour, walnuts, baking soda, salt & cinnamon. set aside.
In mixer bowl cream shortening, butter or margarine and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. gradually beat in dry ingredients just until combined. Drop by level tablespoons 2″ apart on prepared cookie sheets. bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen.

Just a couple suggestions–if you are serious about making cookies and you don’t want to spend all that money on oats, nuts, eggs, etc and not have really nice cookies to show for it, buy parchment paper – I see it every where now. Stock up on it. Also invest in a set of measuring spoons–get a nice stainless set of spoons; they’ll last forever. I bought the long handled type which makes it easier to measure baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon.

When you buy walnuts or pecans (or any kind of nuts for that matter) – take them out of the bags they came in as soon as you get home with them and pour each kind of nuts into glass quart jars–or Tupperware containers–but the main thing is–refrigerate them until you are ready to bake something. Refrigerated walnuts or pecans–or any other kind of nut–have a much longer “shelf” life if kept in the frig. Where I live there is a Trader Joes that always stocks fresh nuts. We also have a store called Smart & Final which carries large quantities of baking ingredients. I like buying molasses in a gallon container (and transfer a pint or so into a glass container) and large quantities of real vanilla extract. Costco and Sam’s Club also carry large sizes of baking ingredients. It’s a good investment .

Another thing I really like are new baking sheets–I like to replace them about once a year but I do a lot of baking. Around Christmas time, a lot of stores–even Penney’s and Kohl’s carry nice new baking sheets and other baking equipment like muffin pans. (and watch for the sales at all of these stores–a few years ago I bought a Wilton chocolate melting pot–and got it for 40% off. My daughter in law was so impressed that she and her sister also bought chocolate pots on sale at Michael’s. Watch for their sale coupons in the mail! They also carry parchment paper.

If you use just parchment paper on your cookie sheets, the cookie sheets will last for a much longer time. And shiny cookie sheets bake much nicer cookies. You can re-use the parchment paper–maybe about half a dozen times or more.

I apologize if this is too much information but these are tips that I learned the hard way by myself over many years. We were pretty poor most of the years my sons were growing up and I didn’t always have the money to invest in new baking sheets. Just saying….

if you are serious about baking, be serious about your equipment. And electric mixers? Get a good one! – I bought a bright red Sunbeam mixer when I retired; I also have a bright blue Kitchen Aid mixer that I get out when I start the heavy duty baking but its too big and bulky for my every day kitchen. I am also serious about sturdy different sized spatulas–I think I have half a dozen in different sizes.

Just one more suggestion—when you buy oatmeal, flour, chocolate chips, various ingredients–I store them in other containers–mostly Tupperware from decades ago–and when you are stocking flour–put a bay leaf into the container. It’s a trick I learned from my mother; flour, cornmeal–any pantry item that can get buggy–WON’T if you have a bay leaf or two in the container with it. A few years ago I bought several large tubs from Walmart after Christmas one year when they are on sale—I keep a lot of pantry supplies in those tubs–particularly cake mixes–and pantry items that won’t fit in my small pantry.

Feel free to write to me if you have any questions–I began working on these cookie recipes because I have a lot of nieces (and some nephews)–as well as friends– who are serious about baking.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Another Recipe from the Cookie Lady

I didn’t get very far with my last post about cookie recipes–and when I am having a baking marathon, like baking cookies for Christmas, or making up batches of cookie dough for ice box cookie recipes or other ways to keep cookie dough chilled or refrigerated–I spend hours going through my cookie recipe collections. Oftentimes, I fall back on tried & true recipes –like my favorite recipe for butter cutout cookies. Either last year or the year before, I wasn’t able to use up all the butter cutout cookie dough. That might have been around early 2014 when I became sick and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks with kidney failure. Anyway, some months later when I was back on my own (my son Steve flew to California to take care of me for the month of March)–I found a double batch of White Christmas cookie dough at the bottom of the freezer. So, one day, I took it out and defrosted the dough–and I began baking cookies with it. I might have used the dough to make Easter cookies. So, why would I play around with any other cutout cookie dough recipe when I KNOW that White Christmas cookie dough is better than any other cutout cookie I have ever found. And admittedly, I bake some cookies year in and year out because a family member or a friend likes them–it makes a great gift to give someone their favorite cookies. I have been making cookies to give to friends and family members as far back as I can remember. I remember when we were living on Terra Bella Street in Arleta in the early 70s – my girlfriend Doreen and I would make up batches of cookie dough independently but when it got close to Christmas, we’d start baking cookies, together – her house or mine – batch after batch, dividing them up between the two of us—baking at night, when her kids and mine were asleep and we were free to focus on cookie baking. She lived around the corner from me and we were in and out of each other’s homes all the time. But baking cookies together is a fond memory. We were such good friends that she and her husband were my son Chris’ godparents at the church we both attended. so I can’t close without sharing my White Christmas cookie recipe with you: To make White Christmas cookies you will need: 1 cup butter 2 cups granulated sugar 4 large eggs 4 cups flour–sifted with 1/8 tsp each nutmeg and cinnamon Cream butter (softened beforehand) gradually adding sugar and beating with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Store overnight in a covered container overnight (or longer in the refrigerator). Roll dough very thin (I like doing this between two sheets of wax paper that has been dusted with flour) and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Cool on cookie sheets a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks. This makes a lot of cookies – how many depends on the size of the cookie cutters but you should get 8 or 10 dozen cookies. Store in tight fitting containers (old Tupperware containers are my favorite for storage) and when it gets closer to Christmas, start decorating cookies–OR you can brush a little egg white onto unbaked cookies and then sprinkle them with holiday sprinkles (Hundreds & Thousands in Canada) – and your cookies will be already decorated and ready to hide from the family until Christmas gets here. Christmas cookie recipes in June! Am I nuts or what? –Sandra Lee Smith

Recipes from the Cookie Lady

Friends and coworkers began calling me the Cookie Lady probably fifteen or twenty years ago. I took cookies to work for any occasion or not for any particular occasion. Now, living in the high desert and bowling on a practice league on Wednesday mornings, I have been taking cookies for everyone on our small league. I have been baking cookies almost all my life, starting with my childhood, searching through my mother’s Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook for a recipe that coordinated with what was in our pantry. I had a free rein in the kitchen but no one ever went out to buy ingredients. That being said, there was always peanut butter, Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa, flour, sugar, margarine or Crisco, and old fashioned rolled oats to be found in my mother’s kitchen.

Now, the curious thing about all of this is that my sons were not, as a general rule, crazy about my homemade cookies–they would eat chocolate chip cookies as long as there weren’t any strange ingredients in the cookies –like nuts.

I would make and bake a lot of butter cutout cookies during the holidays–and my sons like those. When my son Michael was 5 years old he ate all the icing off the butter cutout cookies I had decorated at night after they were in bed; I had left the cookies drying on the kitchen table–so I learned to be careful to keep everything stored and out of reach. It was never easy to keep Anything out of the reach of four growing boys. I made a lot of chocolate chip cookies over the years–if I didn’t want the kids eating something in particular, I just added nuts.

I suspect there are as many peanut butter cookie recipes as there are brownie recipes. For years the recipe I would make was a flourless simple PB cookie recipe attributed to Miss, Lillian, President Carter’s mother. Now in recent times I have been seeing the flourless pb cookie resurrected. in a recent woman’s magazine under the heading SMART COOKIES, I found the following:






Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, blend all ingredients in a large bowl. Drop by level teaspoon onto baking sheets spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. bake until cookies are puffed and starting to brown around the edges – 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

Curiously in the magazine article which shows the baked cookies, it looked to me like either some kind of white chopped nut or white chips were added although there is no mention of any other ingredients in the recipe. When I was making them for my sister’s mother-in-law’s birthday, I added a handful of white chocolate chips. I think you can play around with this recipe.

I found a molasses cookie in the newspaper and clipped it out to try. I don’t make them as big as the directions call for; I use a level one tablespoon cookie scoop (such a valuable cooking tool if you make a lot of cookies) – and I only put 6 scoops of dough onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets; they do spread a lot. I sent this recipe to one of my Canadian girlfriends and she said her husband thought it was the best molasses cookie he had ever eaten! Thanks, Harv!

To make Easy Molasses cookies, you will need the following:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

3 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon (14.5 ounces) flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the molasses.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt and ground cloves. With the mixer running, slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture until completely incorporated.

4. Spoon the batter into mounds, about 1 tablespoon each) and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (space the cookies at least 3 to 4 inches apart, as they will spread). Bake the cookies until set, about 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through for even coloring. Cookies should be slightly browned around the edges. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for about 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

I like to drizzle the cookies with a lemon glaze after they have cooled. Just mix some lemon juice with powdered sugar until you have a thin glaze. I never measure this but I think its about 2 cups of powdered sugar–enough lemon juice to get it incorporated but you can add a little water if the glaze is too thick.

Each cookie: 221 calories; 2 grams protein; 35 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 36 mg cholesterol; 21 grams sugar; 264 mg sodium.

Look for more everyday cookie recipes in a future post!


Here’s a thought–what do you do with handwritten recipes originally in a small ring notebook, now falling apart with age, browning and literally falling apart?

Or more precisely, what do I do with all these little treasures? I think some of them were given to me by Roger, my son Kelly’s godfather, who passed away years ago but when he was alive and able to get around in his truck, would find boxes full of recipes in small notebooks, old manufacturers recipe booklets (back then given away free, for the asking on a postcard–back when a stamp for a postcard was three cents).

I think Roger enjoyed scouting around for valuables in thrift stores. I still have about 6 or 8 restaurant size trays used in cafeterias; Roger found these at a restaurant supply store and I have been using those trays for many purposes ever since my sons were children. Roger bought them because we often made shishkabobs and it was handy to have these trays with the kabobs waiting to go on the grill.

whenever the grandkids come to decorate cookies, theses trays are absolutely perfect; each child decorates his/or her cookies on the tray and the mess is kept to a minimum. I also use the trays whenever I am baking cookies, placing racks on the trays to cool the cookies.

But I digress (sorry, that’s a bad habit of mine) – getting back to handwritten recipes–I have been asking myself for a long time how to preserve them especially when most of these are in such poor condition. The answer was right in front of me!

For the past few weeks I have been going through my cooking/womens magazines, taking them apart, and converting them into my own version of homemade cookbooks; I probably have over 50 three-ring binders with pages from magazines put into plastic page covers that I get at staples for about $18 for a box of 200 “sleeves”.

This was something that started in 1958 with Christmas recipes from my favorite magazines. That binder grew until nothing more would fit into it, so I started a second binder of cookie recipes but by now was clipping any cookie recipes that appealed to me. I am up to 12 binders of cookie recipes. I love going through these binders and choosing new recipes to try. But now there are binders for almost any kind of food – an album for poultry, an album for meat, one for veggies – well, you get the picture.

And as I was talking to myself about how to preserve these little recipe booklets that have come into my life, I thought of a solution. I took a booklet apart, carefully, and then was able to put 2 or 4 pages to a plastic protector.

My best guess is that these little recipe notebooks were compiled by a woman who collected recipes from her friends, neighbors, maybe relatives. Oftentimes, a recipe will be in a different handwriting – did my creative cook ask the person in question if she would write her recipe in her notebook?

And how did these recipes come about? Did the creative cook go to ladies’ luncheons? other gatherings in which women brought a favorite dish? a wedding? a funeral? Creative Cook doesn’t tell us where all of the recipes came from but I picture her taking this notebook and a pencil (most recipes are in pencil, not pen) with her to whatever function the ladies were attending. Eventually, she filled a notebook and started another one. I am forever grateful.

–Sandra Lee Smith


The very first time I heard about red velvet cake was from my friend, Pat Stuart, who became a penpal way back when the internet was just catching on and my sister Becky and I belonged to PRODIGY. I think this had to be in the 1980s because Pat Stuart and her husband Stan lived out by the Los Angeles Fair grounds in Pomona. After a year or two of exchanging correspondence via Prodigy, we agreed to meet when Bob and I were making our annual trips to the fairgrounds where I would enter jellies, jams, chutneys, preserves—anything I could make using a boiling water bath to seal the jars, being gun shy about using a pressure cooker.

The best way I can describe Prodigy as it was back then – it was like a bulletin board where everyone who subscribed to Prodigy could enter comments for other Prodigy subscribers based on your favorite topics. Ours was food, cooking and exchanging recipes. At some point in time, Pat asked if we knew about Red Velvet cake; she had a recipe from a cousin who lived in the South. The story they had heard about Red Velvet cake was that it originated at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 1930s.

Back in the 1980s, I began entering the Los Angeles County Fair; first you submitted entry forms describing the items you planned to enter into the Home Arts Division, accompanied by the entry fees. Then Bob, my significant other, would make the trip to Pomona to submit my entries—two of each canned food item; one for tasting, one for displaying. Then he would make a second trip to pick up my tasting jars (which otherwise would have been discarded). THEN we planned a weekend at the fair in Pomona and once the new Sheraton Fairplex hotel opened right on the fair grounds, I made reservations for us to spend the weekend there. It was delightful – hotel guests had their own special entrance, bypassing all of the long lines.

We agreed to meet Pat and Stan at the hotel and have dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was friendship at first sight.

Bob would make a fourth trip to Pomona after the fair was over, to pick up my entries, ribbons, if I had won any, and prize money. I was still working at the time so he made the trips to and from Pomona on his own.

(*In 2008, we moved to the high desert, the Antelope Valley, and since it’s so much farther to go to the Los Angeles fairgrounds, that ended our experience entering the Home Arts Division—and, in 2011, Bob passed away from cancer of the esophagus.

Getting back to Red Velvet cake – a few years ago two of the leading cake mix manufacturers came out with their own version of red velvet cake mix. And for the past few years, I have been making red velvet cookies out of red velvet cake mix.

Imagine my surprise, last year (2014) the Food Network Magazine featured a short article about red velvet cake. They noted that red velvet cake is one of America’s most searched for dessert.

According to the Food Network, the origin of red velvet cake remains a mystery and that even food historians can’t agree on the story. That said, the Food Network mentions that in the 1800s, light textured velvet cakes were popular (and I did find a reference to a chocolate velvet cake in one of my food reference books). I checked through half a dozen other food reference books in my collection without finding red velvet cake or any other velvet cake reference.

The Food Network states that the Waldorf Astoria hotel introduced red velvet cake in the 1930s—that would have been during the Depression. The Food Network repeated the oft-repeated claim of a customer requesting the recipe and being billed $100.00 for it.

(In more recent years, this food urban legend has been attributed to a Neiman Marcus restaurant and by now the recipe was for a chocolate chip cookie) Whatever! Neiman Marcus Department Stores denies it ever happened.

And when the red velvet cake recipe first came to my attention, it called for an entire bottle of red food coloring. Never mind that a bottle of food coloring is only about one ounce – in my lifetime there was a red dye #2 scare (the red dye being said to cause cancer). That was probably in the 1970s but I have been leery of red food coloring ever since—never mind pouring an entire one ounce bottle into a cake mix.

And, according to the Food Network magazine article, there is an extract/spice company which dates back to the 1880s and they claim that red velvet became a term when the company added red dye to their classic velvet cake during the depression.

Since General Mills and Duncan Hines food manufacturers came out with their own red velvet cake mix, I haven’t made a red velvet cake from scratch since. And I have been making cookies from cake mixes for about a decade.

In a blog post of mine from May, 2011, about Urban Legends, I wrote:
“…While clipping recipes from a stack of old newspapers (my project every two years while the Olympics were on TV), I happened to come across an article by food writer Jan Malone who wrote, “In what has to be a classic example of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ Neiman Marcus has put a chocolate chip cookie recipe on its website. “For years,” writes Malone, “Neiman Marcus has battled an urban legend that will not die. A ‘friend’ of the initial e-mail writer has lunch at the store’s Neiman Marcus in Dallas, eats a wonderful cookie, asks for the recipe, is told it will cost ‘two-fifty’; she thinks its two dollars and fifty cents but it’s really two hundred and fifty dollars She is so incensed when she gets her credit card bill and the store won’t refund her money, that she gets even by sending the recipe to every e-mail address she knows.

Sometimes this tale of the greedy corporation,” Malone continues, “victimizing the small consumer who gets revenge…has a different villain. In fact, the same story circulated in the 1930s about a red velvet cake from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York”. THAT recipe “cost” $100.00 but hey, times were tough, it was the depression and all.

Malone says she has written about the cookie myth several times and one time encountered a guy who was offering a reward if the ‘friend of the email sender’ could produce a credit card receipt for the $250 purchase but so far there have been no takers. Still, writes Malone, people refuse to believe that the story is a hoax even though Neiman Marcus says it never served cookies in its restaurants until recently and that it always shares its recipes free of charge”.

NOW—as an update—I wrote my original story about urban myths for the newsletter the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1998. While going through my notes, I wondered if the cookie story was still making the rounds –so I Googled it. AND the answer is – YES, the cookie myth is still in circulation – but NOW if you type in “chocolate chip cookie myth” on Google – one of the sites that pops up is from – none other than Neiman Marcus with the recipe AND their offer – copy it, print it, pass it along to your friends and relatives.

It’s a terrific recipe – and it’s FREE. So how did this story ever get started? According to Los Angeles Times writer Daniel Puzo, “…a Neiman Marcus spokesperson in Dallas, said that the tall tale has been circulating ever since she went to work for Neiman Marcus in 1986. The first newspaper story she saw on the bogus cookie recipe appeared in 1988…” and now you know the rest of the story.


• 1/2 cup shortening
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 ounces red food coloring
• 2 tablespoons cocoa (heaping)
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 1/4 cups cake flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vinegar

• 3 tablespoons flour
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup butter (must be butter)


Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

1. Cream shortening, sugar and eggs.
2. Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa.
3. Add to creamed mixture.
4. Add buttermilk alternating with flour and salt.
5. Add vanilla.
6. Add soda to vinegar, and blend into the batter.
7. Pour into 3 or 4 greased and floured 8″ cake pans.
8. Bake at 350°F for 24-30 minutes.
9. Split layers fill and frost with the following frosting.
10. Frosting: Add milk to flour slowly, avoiding lumps.
11. Cook flour and milk until very thick, stirring constantly.
12. Cool completely.
13. Cream sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy.
14. Add to cooked mixture.
15. Beat, high speed, until very fluffy.
16 Looks and tastes like whipped cream.

ANOTHER RED VELVET CAKE (this one is made with canned red beets and only a teaspoonful of red food coloring:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds canned beets, drained and pureed
1 teaspoon red food coloring

Cream Cheese/Mascarpone Frosting

2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Pre-heat oven to 350 F

Butter three 9″ round cake pans and line them with parchment paper or waxed paper. (I’ve used square pans and Pam for Baking as well and they worked fine.) To prepare cake:

Melt Chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water or in the top of a double boiler (or melt in microwave for 20 – 25 seconds). Meanwhile. place the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed for two minutes. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and continue to mix on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so everything is well incorporated.

Add the melted chocolate to this mixture and continue to mix on low speed. Add the pureed beets and food coloring. Continue to mix on low speed until everything is thoroughly combined. Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared pans and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until center of cake springs back when touched, or when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove the pans from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool for ten minutes in the pans, then turn the layers out onto the rack and let cool completely.

To prepare Cream Cheese/Mascarpone Icing:

Pour cream into a small bowl and whip to soft peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until it is soft and smooth. Add the mascarpone and continue to mix on low speed until the cheeses are well combined. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until everything is just combined. Turn off the mixer and fold in the whipped cream by hand with a spatula. Keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.

To assemble:

Using a serrated knife, trim the top of each layer of each layer of cake so that it is flat. Place the first layer on a cake plate or serving platter and top with some of the icing. Repeat until all of the layers are covered with icing, then ice the top and sides of the cake. Store cake in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Chef’s note:
Sliced canned beets are easier to work with in this recipe than whole beets.

Note – This cake works well as a wedding cake but use a cream cheese/buttercream as the icing noted here will not harden.

(*after typing the above this morning, I went to the kitchen and made a batch of the lemon/rice krispie cookies with a box of lemon flavored reduced content cake mix using one egg instead of two and adding juice and zest from one lemon.(instead of any evaporated milk) The cookies turned out just fine!

First, let me share with you A BASIC CAKE MIX COOKIE RECIPE—
1 box, (18.25 oz) any flavor cake mix (I prefer the Betty Crocker cake mixes but any kind will work)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or solid stick margarine (such as Imperial), melted and cooled
2 TBSP milk (I like using evaporated milk for this but if you are making lemon cookies, I prefer using a little lemon juice and the zest from one lemon
2 eggs (or if the box of cake mix has been reduced to 15 or 16 ounces, use just one egg)

Mix together all ingredients. Divide the dough into several balls and pack it into zip lock bags. Chill overnight or as long as you need—the dough will keep for at least a month. Now you are ready to roll the dough out for cutout cookies, or shape into balls. You can roll the balls into finely chopped nuts or glaze them after they’ve baked.

Next, is Chocolate Fudge Cookies – you can use any kind of chocolate cake mix with this recipe and you can change it around a bit by using white chocolate chips instead of semi sweet chocolate chips.

To make Chocolate Fudge Cookies you will need:
1 PACKAGE (18.25 OZ) chocolate cake mix or devil’s food cake mix
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil or melted and cooled butter (1 stick = ½ cup)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips.
In a medium size bowl, stir together the cake mix, eggs, and oil until well blended. Then mix in the chocolate chips. Shape the dough into walnut-size balls; place the cookie dough 2” apart on the cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
To make the cookies look more Christmassy, make up a thin glaze out of powdered sugar and a little water – drizzle over the cookies on the wire racks.

To make Keara’s Favorite Crisp Little Lemon cookies you will need:
1 package lemon cake mix (18.25 oz)
1 cup dry rice krispies cereal
½ cup margarine or butter, melted and cooled (1 stick)
1 egg slightly beaten
1 tsp lemon extract or lemon juice
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl; mix well. Shape into 1” balls and place 2” apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees 9-12 minutes. Cool 1 minute then transfer to wire racks to cool.

If you make up a lemon glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice, and drizzle it over the cookies, you will have a more festive cookie. I like to add a little lemon zest to the cookie batter, too. Finally, here is my red velvet cookie recipe:

1 box (18.25) Red Velvet cake mix
½ cup cooking oil
2 TBSP evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 12-oz bag white chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Drop by tablespoonful on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. A white glaze is nice with these. or dust them with sifted powdered sugar.

It may take a while to figure out how to make these recipes work with most (not all!) of the cake manufacturers reducing the size of the box and the amount of cake mix inside. I was most curious about angel food cake mix—the box is smaller but you still add the same amount of water and bake the cake in a tube pan. Angel food cake is my youngest son’s favorite cake so he doesn’t mind being my guinea pig figuring out how to deal with the changes in cake mixes.

After posting the above last night, I found a lengthy article about red velvet cakes in the Daily News, titled The Color of Rubies–by Florence Fabricant–I will write more about it in another post. Meantime, I also found the recipe for red velvet cookies that I made last Christmas, which were a big hit.

2 RED VELVET CAKE MIXES, 3 EGGS, 1 stick Imperial margarine, softened, 1/4 cup drained well chopped maraschino cherries, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  mix all ingredients except powdered sugar. drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Allow room for spreading. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until done. cool on wire racks and then dust with powered sugar sifted gently over the cookies. let cool completely.

–Sandra Lee Smith