Category Archives: FAVORITE RECIPES

MORE COOKIE RECIPES FROM THE COOKIE LADY–OATMEAL COOKIES ANYONE?

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:

EASIEST EVER PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

1 CUP CHUNKY OR CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER

3/4 CUP PACKED LIGHT BROWN SUGAR

1 LARGE EGG

3/4 TSP BAKING SODA

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:
EASY MOLASSES COOKIES

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!

COLLECTING HANDWRITTEN RECIPES

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 LEGEND OF RED VELVET CAKES

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.

TO MAKE THE WALDORF ASTORIA RED VELVET CAKE:

• 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

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

Directions:

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:
Ingredients

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.

KEARA’S FAVORITE CRISP LITTLE LEMON COOKIES
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:

RED VELVET CHRISTMAS COOKIES
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.

RED VELVET COOKIES
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.
*CATCHING FAIR FEVER, 2011 BLOG POST

–Sandra Lee Smith

CANNING SEASON – MAKING YOUR OWN SAUER KRAUT

There is, I confess, a kind of insanity that takes hold of me whenever I come into possession of any large quantity of fruit or vegetables—or, say, the owner of my favorite little grocery store in Burbank would offer me a couple of flats of ripe tomatoes for next to nothing. My freezer would still overflowing with frozen bags of pureed raspberries, from the last such windfall. It’s apparent, nothing else is going to fit into the freezer until I finish making up batches of jam. One wonderful holiday recipe is a chocolate-raspberry spread that I like to give away during the Christmas season.

Maybe I was a squirrel in a former life. What else can account for stocking up, canning, dehydrating, and freezing far more food than we can possibly consume?

Or, if not a squirrel in a former life, I would like to believe that this is something I inherited from my German/Hungarian paternal grandparents—who would butcher a hog once a year and make up lots of sausages. My grandfather converted one of their garages into a “smoke house” where he had the hams hanging from the rafters. (This isn’t something I remember – but my sister Becky did, and told the story often enough).    

Years ago, we acquired a very large stoneware crock. I believe it originally belonged to my younger sister Susie’s mother-in-law, Vera. It could hold something like over 30 quarts when it was filled. In March, to honor St. Patrick’s day, cabbage can often be bought locally for 10 cents a pound. (I lost this big crock when Bob backed the car into it turning my car around in the driveway).

Our first attempt to make our own sauerkraut turned out ok, although the finished product turned a little dark—undoubtedly from using regular salt instead of canning salt. The following year, some friends who moved to Texas but with whom I shared a love of canning and exchanged recipes, happened to find a close-out sale of canning salt, pickling ingredients and I don’t know what all, at their local Walmart store and bought everything they had. They sent me a big box of these things, and I believe I must have a lifetime supply of canning salt on hand, now.

 There is very little to making your own sauerkraut—what it does take a lot of is elbow grease. You have to shred the cabbage very fine and then for about every 5 pounds of shredded cabbage, mix in about 3 tablespoons of canning salt. Then it gets packed into the sterilized crock. You weigh it down—Bob made a round piece of wood with a handle that just fits inside the crock—but we wrapped the wood up in layers of plastic. On top of that we’d prop 4 or 5 filled 2-liter bottles of soda pop, stick it in a corner of the pantry and let it ferment for six weeks. At the end of six weeks, voila—you have sauerkraut.

 In colder climates, the crock of sauerkraut can be kept in a fruit cellar and eaten as is. But, here in Southern California, the summers get very hot (and we don’t have cellars) so that at this point, the sauerkraut needs to be canned. This means heating the sauerkraut in a big pot, while boiling quart jars in another large pot.

When the sauerkraut is simmering, (185 to 210 degrees), it can be packed into the hot sterilized quart jars, sealed, and then submerged in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

We entered our sauerkraut in the Los Angeles county fair in 1990 and won a blue ribbon for it.

People either love sauerkraut or they hate it—there doesn’t seem to be any middle of the road.

All the years I was growing up, my mother made sauerkraut and pork, with mashed potatoes and peas for New Years eve supper, which was served late, probably around midnight. According to William Woys Weaver, the author of SAUERKRAUT YANKEE”, sauerkraut with pork was eaten on New Year’s Day by the Pennsylvania Dutch people, for good luck. I remember one New Year’s Eve, when I was about 15—I was babysitting for neighbors a block away from home. Around midnight, there was a knock on the door; there stood one of my brothers, with a plateful of sauerkraut and pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, sent over by my mother. I cried in the sauerkraut as I ate my good luck supper.

Weaver says that sauerkraut was something one learned to make as a child, that for the Pennsylvania Dutch people, the art of sauerkraut was practically second nature.

He says that Philadelphia writer Eliza Leslie was one of the first to publicize Pennsylvania-German sauerkaut in her cookbook, but that the earliest recipes appeared in newspapers and agriculture journals. Ms. Leslie was a famous cookbook author of the 1800s, including “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry Cakes and Sweetmeats” by “A Lady of Philadelphia”, which is now available in facsimile edition from Applewood Books.

According to Weaver, “…sauerkraut is so intermeshed with Pennsylvania-German ethnic identity, that it always makes it appearance anytime Pennsylvania German foods are specifically called for…” During the Civil War, it gave birth to the name “Sauerkraut Yankees”.

Weaver tells this following story: “There is a twist of irony in this because history turned the joke around on the South. When Confederate troops captured Chambersburg in the summer of 1863, one of the first things the famished rebels demanded from the inhabitants were barrels of sauerkraut. The Dutch could only smile and shrug their shoulders. No one in his right mind made sauerkraut in the summer…”

 I was enchanted by the discovery of a little recipe booklet called “ONE NATION UNDER SAUERKRAUT”, published by the people of Waynesville, Ohio for their annual Ohio sauerkraut festival. I’ve been to Waynesville—one of my brothers used to live near there, and my sisters and I spent one wonderful summer day visiting the many antique stores in Waynesville.

Ah, but I didn’t know about their sauerkraut festival! The author of “One Nation Under Sauerkraut”, Dennis Dalton, provided some fascinating facts about sauerkraut—that cabbage has been an important food crop to mankind for more than 5,000 years—that at one time it was so highly revered in Egypt that it was worshipped during certain religious rites—that the formula for sauerkraut (an Austrian word meaning sour cabbage) was invented by China’s Emperor Shih Huang-Ti. It was developed as a result of an economic need to stretch the rice diets of coolies constructing China’s Great Wall over 2,200 years ago. That third century sauerkraut little resembled the Teutonic variety of present times. Chinese cooks achieved fermentation by pickling whole cabbage leaves in wine.

 It was sometime during the latter part of the 16th century that someone stumbled onto fermenting cabbage with ordinary salt.

Sauerkraut reached American tables and became a part of the nation’s menu after the Dutch colonized New York.

However, it was the Pennsylvania Dutch who immortalized it in table fare, story and song, a people who have an old saying “He is as Dutch as sauerkraut”.

 We “put up” (canned) 30 quarts of sauerkraut in 2009. I swore this was it; that I was never going to make sauerkraut again. Bob always shrugged and smiled and said “you always say that”. I will say this, neither he nor I have ever had scurvy. **

Bob (who really was my sous chef) passed away in September of 2011. I think I opened the last of the jars of sauerkraut when my penpal Bev & her husband came to visit the winter of 2012—maybe, just maybe I will attempt making sauerkraut again next spring—if I can find someone to help shred the cabbage! A few years ago – maybe in 2010 – we bought a huge crock that has a specially designed lid that keeps the contents “sealed” while it is fermenting.

 This summer has found me canning tomatoes and tomato juice, with the bounty of tomatoes from my son Kelly’s garden. LAST year when we were tired of picking tomatoes, he and I picked all the green cherry tomatoes we could find before he pulled out all the vines to go into the trash. I looked up and found a recipe for pickling cherry tomatoes –

Ok, you can’t be too rich or too thin (or to paraphrase Wallace Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor back in the 1930s) …have too many pint or quart jars waiting to be filled.

 

— Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

READING COOKBOOKS LIKE NOVELS

If you have been collecting cookbooks for any length of time, or gravitate towards any articles or references to cookbooks that you find on the Internet, in the newspaper –or anywhere else—you may have seen the oft-repeated comment from collectors, “I read cookbooks like novels” in a sort of perplexed way, like who does anything like this? The answer is WE ALL DO and our number is legion. I might have made a comment like this myself back in 1965 when I first started collecting cookbooks and really didn’t know where to go about getting started.
There was a magazine for penpals called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) – I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle trying to find a little Hungarian cookbook for a friend and as an afterthought, wrote that I wanted to start collecting cookbooks and would buy or trade for them.

I received over 200 responses when my letter was published; I found the Hungarian cookbook published by Culinary Press (ck) and bought one for my friend and one for myself. Then I began buying anything anyone offered me and it was the nucleus of my collection. I also began finding cookbooks in used book stores—I hadn’t been living in California long enough to be familiar with used book stores such as one in West Hollywood that was a treasure trove of cookbooks, many for only $1.00 each. It was there that I acquired a handwritten cookbook that the owner of the book store offered to me for $11.00. Now that is a cookbook I have read from cover to cover many times. I have also written about it on this blog (see Helen’s Cookbook first posted June 16, 2009, along with Helen’s Cookbook the Update and Helen’s Cookbook the Sequel) – now this was a revelation. I have been collecting recipe boxes for years and had discovered filled recipe boxes—recipes collected by someone else, like a kitchen diary) – and I began wondering if there might be more self-written cookbooks like Helen’s. Aside from the very famous hand-written cookbooks such as one created by Martha Washington or Thomas Jefferson and other notables, over the years other handwritten cookbooks have come my way, thanks to friends who know about my addiction to cookbooks such as these.

Each discovery is like traveling down an amazing road and every time you come to a crossroad—it leads to more incredible and fascinating discoveries, all due to starting a collection of cookbooks.

In 1965, I was barely starting a collection. It was a stellar year. I learned how to drive that year, and also acquired an Australian penpal, Eileen, and a Michigan penpal, Betsy, who are still both a part of my life. That was also the year I met Connie, who initially babysat for me—but became a lifelong friend who was also the godmother to my youngest son, Kelly. Her children were as much a part of my life as my own sons. Connie began collecting cookbooks too.
It was right about this time that I became interested in former Presidents and the White House, and Connie and I bought a “lot” of White House, American presidents, sight unseen, from someone for $100.00. We scraped together the money and when the books arrived, divided them between us. (My discovery that cookbooks and the White House/American presidents were connected – came much later and now those books take up several shelves in my bookcases).

So, it wasn’t very long before I was collecting not only cookbooks—but books about the White House kitchens and chefs, books about American Presidents and their families, and books about First Ladies (these take up an entire bookcase).

I’m not sure when I first became aware of an antiquarian bookseller in San Gabriel…she compiled an annual booklet, “200 Years of Cookery” and I bought some books from her—this was another revelation; the booklets were reasonably priced and became my wish books. I remember visiting her once at her home in San Gabriel; I don’t remember the year—or who drove me there. I can’t imagine Jim taking me there—and Bob was familiar with San Gabriel. I still have a 1974 copy of “200 years of Cookery” and only thought, last night, to look up Marian Gore on Google. I learned that she passed away in 2009 at the age of 95. It’s quite possible that I met her, at her home in San Gabriel, with Bob accompanying me. I met him in 1986 and around that time had begun to focus on cookbooks compiled by women’s clubs and churches.

However, I discovered that I was as interested in reading cookbook catalogues as I was in reading the cookbooks themselves. Edward R. Hamilton publishes catalogues of books –including those devoted solely to cookbooks.

I would begin collecting L.A. County Fair cookbooks in the 1980s when Bob and I began entering my jellies, jams, pickled cherries and cantaloupe in the annual fair competition. If your recipes won a first, second, or third prize ribbon, you were invited to submit your recipe for the next fair competition the following year. My curiosity was piqued and I began searching for the L.A. County fair cookbooks published before I began entering it – and I did find them….but I stopped collecting the books when I was no longer able to enter the fair or get to the fair when it was being held at the Pomona Fairgrounds.

But I was still curious – what about cookbooks published by other county fairs? And what about STATE FAIR ANNUAL COOKBOOKS? (To the best of my knowledge, Texas publishes the best State Fair cookbooks…at least they did when I was broadening my search for anything fair related). The glory of fair cookbooks is that they are always reasonably priced. And this, my friends, was one of those crossroads I mentioned earlier.

As for Helen’s cookbook, also mentioned previously—it was through a penpal living in England that I learned who Helen was and something about her life; she and her husband never had any children of their own, which probably explains how her exquisite handwritten cookbook ended up in a bookstore. What charmed me most were the detailed descriptions of her dinner parties, who was invited, how everyone was given a task to perform, and what she served to them—including the recipes.

And it was because of Helen’s cookbook that I began compiling 3-ring binders of recipes…some clipped from magazines, others from other sources—until there are now over 50 of these 3-ring binders stuffed full of recipes. There are twelve binders full of cookie recipes alone. But back in the 1970s I began keeping descriptions of MY own dinner parties, who was invited, what I served and how I prepared the various dishes. I think I kept these dinner party descriptions up until the 1980s when I came to another crossroad.

For years I collected gingerbread house recipes from magazines (all of which ended up in one of my 3-ring binders) until one year Bob and I decided to build our own gingerbread house; the first house we created wasn’t too great but the next one we built was a beauty. When a visiting four-year old great-niece broke off pieces of the chicklet fence, we decided not to re-build and fed it to the birds. Bob was a genius at working on graph paper to copy designs in the magazines to a bigger size. He would make and cut out all the pieces to the gingerbread house. Together we would create gingerbread dough and roll it out to lay the pieces down on the gingerbread dough, cut the pieces out and bake them. It was an enormous undertaking! I’m sorry now that we didn’t attempt to enter THAT into the L.A. County Fair. Well, that’s how I started collecting cookbooks devoted to the topic of gingerbread houses. There were a multitude of other gingerbread creations you could make, not just gingerbread houses. One year we attempted a gingerbread dollhouse that was featured in one of the houses. That was an unusually wet winter and the house sort of collapsed from the dampness. Since then, I buy kits for my grandchildren and me to put together and decorate. And I still like to read the gingerbread house cookbooks!

Do I read cookbooks like a novel? Absolutely. Doesn’t everybody?

–Sandra Lee Smith