Category Archives: PERSONAL FAVORITES

ACKNOWLEDGING MICHIGAN FRIENDS & KINFOLK – A FEW OF THEIR COOKBOOKS

When I started collecting cookbooks in 1965, I really didn’t know where to begin, aside from making frequent visits to used book stores. I didn’t know a thing about collecting cookbooks—but I had a1961 Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook that my father bought from a coworker and I thought there must be more like this, “out there somewhere”.

I wrote a letter to Tower Press’ Women’s Circle magazine in 1965 (a magazine for penpals) and mentioned being interested in buying, or trading for church or club cookbooks. Over 200 women responded to my request and I was kept busy for several months, buying cookbooks sight unseen or trading things like S&H Green Stamps – or whatever else the writer wanted. Many of those first cookbooks were remarkably good finds.

The best thing about that letter in Women’s Circle in 1965 was a letter from a woman in Michigan. She was a cookbook collector and she helped me find cookbooks; we became – and remained – friends; our children grew up, married, had children of their own. I went through a divorce and my Michigan friend lost her husband. A few months ago, she began downsizing to move into a smaller place, and has sent me boxes of books – not just cookbooks but other books as well, books about lighthouses (another pet interest of mine) and books about survivors of WW2. My cup runneth over.

After giving this a great deal of consideration, I thought that the best way I can show my appreciation for all that she has given to me – is by writing about some of these books.

I’m not sure whether I have more California church and club cookbooks or more if those from Michigan. The problem with counting the Michigan cookbooks is that they aren’t all in the same place – two of my largest bookcases are divided up as “east of the Mississippi” and “west of the Mississippi”. I know, probably sounds dumb but it SEEMED like a fairly good idea when I first came up with it. I have kept all of my California cookbooks together – currently they fill two bookcases in my bedroom and are double-rowed. Sometimes I have to take everything off the shelves to find a particular book. Before we moved to this house in 2008, I was in a much larger house and had the California cookbooks divided into two parts – Northern California and Southern California. Now they are all mixed up. (One of these days I’ll get them sorted again).

In a bookcase in our spare bedroom, I have all the southern cookbooks filling up two bookcases on one wall and on the other wall, I have all of my Ohio cookbooks (separate from East of the Mississippi) because I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, and have a separate collection of cookbooks from Cincinnati. Then I began putting the Michigan cookbooks on a shelf underneath the Ohio ones (although technically speaking, Michigan is ABOVE Ohio, not below it) – sometimes the sizes of books has a lot to do with how you file them on your shelves.

Well, as you can imagine, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. Since I first posted “Battered, Tattered, Stained church and club cookbooks”, I have been going through a lot of my books trying to determine which ones would generate the most interest. Then I thought it would be nice to have a discussion on California cookbooks since they are one of my favorites. (The other favorite are my Cincinnati club and church cookbooks.)

But before I do that, I think I owe it to my friend Betsy to tell you about some of the Michigan cookbooks. In addition to having had a Michigan penpal for over 45 years, I also have a brother who lived in Michigan for several decades, and two of his offspring have chosen to remain in the Wolverine State.

I visited Betsy twice in the 1970s – thanks to her kindhearted husband who drove several hundred miles to Cincinnati to take me and my children to Michigan to spend a week with them-one of the most delightful experiences, back then, was going to the flea markets where you would find all sorts of old cookbooks, often priced for as little as ten cents each. But, my brother and his wife hosted a family reunion there one year, and I have made perhaps half a dozen trips to Michigan over the years; twice to visit my mother who was in a nursing home in Grand Rapids, once for my goddaughter’s high school graduation, once for my sister Becky and I to drive around Lake Michigan, searching for Light Houses. Whenever I am in Michigan, I want to find the book stores. The year that my niece Julie was graduating from high school, her sister Leslie drove me to Ann Arbor – where she had gone to college – and we had a wonderful afternoon searching out used book stores as well as the ones selling new books – particularly cookbooks.

One of the cookbooks I bought that year, 1994, was “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” published by the Ronald McDonald House with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. This is a thick spiral-bound cookbook with over 700 prized recipes. You may find yourself reading recipes for days but one I found outstanding is named “Sue’s Cheerios Snack”. Considered a great snack for tailgate parties, this is easy to make and would be a great snack for the kiddies too:

Pam cooking spray
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (or 1 stick solid type margarine or butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 cups cheerios* cereal
1 cup Spanish peanuts
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 9×13” pan with Pam. Combine Cheerios, peanuts and raisins in pan. In a saucepan, heat sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt until bubbly around the edges. Cook 2 minutes more (do not stir). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda . Pour over cereal mixture. Mix well. Bake 20 minutes. Turn immediately onto wax paper. Let Cool.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: When “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” was published in 1994, we only had the one kind of Cheerios. I have been thinking this would be great to try with the chocolate Cheerios or the cinnamon flavored version. Bon Appétit!

I did some checking on Amazon.com—you can buy Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II for as little as 59 cents (plus will be charged $3.99 shipping & handling from private vendors; they are also listing 2 new copies for $9.49. There are numerous other listings you can find on Google for this cookbook. I have been unable to verify whether or not you can still order copies from the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor. Maybe someone will know and enlighten me. **
One of my favorite Michigan cookbooks was not published by a church, club or any other organization –but it’s such a keeper, it deserves a spot on this post. The title of the cookbook is “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” by Larry B. Massie and Priscilla Massie.

From “Watermelon Pickles and Watermelon Cake we learn that “The Massies are a husband and wife team specializing in Michigan history. Larry co-authored with Peter Schmitt “KALAMAZOO: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS” and “BATTLE CREEK: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS.” His other publications include “FROM FRONTIER FOLK TO FACTORY SMOKE” “MICHIGANS FIRST CENTURY OF HISTORICAL FICTION”, “VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” “COPPER TRAILS AND IRON RAILS”, “MORE VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” and “WARM FRIENDS AND WODE SHOES: A PICTORAL HISTORY OF THE HOLLAND AREA.”

Priscilla was born in Kalamazoo in 1955 and traces her Michigan ancestry to Michel Campau, one of the one hundred Frenchmen who founded Detroit with Cadillac in 1701. Priscilla’s research, photographic, word processing and culinary skills allow the Massies to participate in a wide range of Michigan history projects…” What wouldn’t I give to visit that century old schoolhouse and see the Massies collections!

I don‘t know HOW many times I’ve reached for this book to check some piece of information It’s been a favorite reference book for many years. Subtitled “A CENTURY OF MICHIGAN COOKING”, this hard-cover with a spill-resistant cover was published in 1990 by Wayne State University Press in Detroit. And what the two Massies have done is provided recipes from church and club cookbooks dating back in some instances prior to 1900. The book is generously laced with drawings or illustrations of old-timey kitchen utensils – but one of my favorite features, I admit it freely, was the number of rhymed recipes including one my oldest finds for The Kitchen Poets, “Eve’s Pudding” dating from Detroit in 1878. One I will spare directions for is Perfect Mock Turtle Soup that starts out “Get a calf’s head with the skin on (the fresher the better) and before you say ew, ew, I want to add that an authentic MOCK turtle soup was commonly made with a calf’s head when real turtle was unavailable.
In the introduction, the Massies explain how their interest in old books was cultivated and grew from very early ages. They married and moved into an old one-room schoolhouse located in the midst of the Allegan State Forest. “Crowded within the main part of the structure is our collection of thirty thousand books, thirteen-foot high bookshelves surround all sides of a vast room. More shelves in the center of the room support a loft where Larry studies and writes about Michigan history…”

Priscilla has an attached room with a “Hoosier” cabinet (I had one when I was first married and didn’t have the sense to keep it before we moved to California); her kitchen cabinet was built in 1910 and is flanked on one side by a GE “monitor top” refrigerator made in 1932 and on the other, an electric range of similar vintage. They love history so much that they have surrounded themselves with period household furnishings. Priscilla has antique kitchen utensils, cast-iron Griswold pots and pans and other domestic artifacts hang everywhere. The Massies have fulfilled the dictate to write about what you know the most about. More than thirteen hundred recipes from Michigan’s past are in this volume, dating from 1820s through the end of WW2.

“Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake” contains SO many recipes – and I think I copied most of the rhymed recipes when I was compiling the Kitchen Poets.
I have gone through this cookbook over and over, trying to decide which recipe to feature. I chose “Pickled Grapes” because I have seen pickled grape recipes featured on websites and blogs recently – as though a brand-new recipe. I made up a batch and it WAS new to me – but “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon cake have it dated 1899 by a Mrs. McCall in Kalamazoo!
To make Pickled Grapes:

Take grapes fresh from the stems without breaking and put them in a jar. For 7 pounds of grapes, take one quart vinegar, 3 pounds of sugar*, 1 TBSP whole cloves and the same of cinnamon bark. Boil it all together a few minutes, then let it cool until you can bear your finger in it; pour over the grapes, turn a plate over them; set them in a cool cellar and they are done. Do not cook the grapes nor heat the pickle over. If properly prepared they will keep a year and be as plump and fresh as when picked from the vines.

Well, I don’t have a cellar, and here in the high desert it can be a problem finding a spot cool enough. When I made sauerkraut about a year ago, we kept the crock in the coolest section of our garage which is in Bob’s workshop (attached behind the garage) and that worked – but I was making the kraut in March when it’s still relatively cool in the Antelope Valley.
If you want to make the pickled grapes you can keep them very well if you have a cellar or basement. If not, make them while the weather is still fairly cool.

*Sandy’s cooknote: 2 cups of granulated sugar equal 1 pound, so you would need 6 cups of sugar to equal 3 pounds. 4 cups of vinegar equals one quart.)
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake”, the best prices I have found are on Amazon.com. They have pre-owned copies starting under $10.00. They have one new copy at $31.99 and 8 used and new from $17.68.

Another good Michigan cookbook is “OUR BEST TO YOU” compiled by the Junior League of Battle Creek in 1984. This cookbook is in a specially designed 3-ring binder that enables the reader to open the rings in case you want to put the page on the refrigerator door so you can make a recipe. The pages measure just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length. I haven’t been able to find any pre-owned copies in the most frequently websites that I visit. My guess is that it’s out of print and you may have to do some digging to find a copy. However, you don’t have to search very far for this easy Beef Brisket recipe:
1 4-5 pound beef brisket
Seasoned salt
Pepper
Dried minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups of water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash brisket thoroughly and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic. Brown in an open pan (I use a large cast iron skillet for this) for 30 minutes in the oven. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast 1 hour. Layer the sliced onion over the meat and continue roasting an additional hour. Add water and cover, roast 1 hour more. Check for tenderness. Cool slightly and slice.
Note: Brisket may be prepared in advance. Reheat in pan juices before serving ~~~
Also published in 1984 and using the same format – the 3-ring binder that measures just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length is from the Junior League of Lansing, Michigan and bears the title “Temptations.” In its Introduction we learn that the inspiration for the cookbook was based on the bounty of Michigan’s agriculture. The book contains over 500 recipes and here is a simple recipe from “Temptations” that is called Sesame Potato Spears. I love potato recipes that are not fried but are just as good if not better. This is the recipe for Sesame Potato Spears:
6 to 8 potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted (that would be half of one stick of butter)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp paprika
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup Dijon mustard (optional)
Peel the potatoes and cut into long strips. Melt butter in a loaf baking dish and stir in seasonings. Stir the potatoes to coat. Bake in 400 degree oven for one hour or until tender.
(Sandy’s cooknote: I am inclined to put the melted butter and seasonings into a plastic zip-lock bag and then put the potatoes on a Pam-sprayed baking sheet that you have covered with foil. That is how I make my baked fries.
Note: Dijon mustard will give it an extra tang. ~~

“Temptations” is still available on Amazon.com – They have 4 new copies available from $5.43 and 5 used copies starting at $2.87. ~
A third cookbook compiled in a 3 ring binder just under 6½”wide and just under 9½” in length that is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks is titled “THE HOUSE ON THE HILL” which is a bed and breakfast inn, published in 2002 by Cindy and Tom Tomalka. The Tomalkas tell us they have had over 3000 couples and singles visit the Inn since April 1997—who have consumed over 14,000 breakfasts.
You won’t believe all the recipes just for making muffins – now muffins are a favorite recipe of mine – and it was a muffin recipe I was following the first time I made muffins using my mother’s big yellow bowl – which I dropped and broke when I was about ten years old. Muffins can be sweet or savory and a simple muffin is ideal for a young child to make when they are cooking for the first time. Here is a recipe for Michigan Maple Syrup Muffins:
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
½ cp maple syrup
½ cup butter, melted (*1/2 cup butter is one stick)
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk, syrup and butter. Gradually pour this egg mixture into a well I the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir quickly. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overbeat or muffins will be tough. Spoon into greased mini-muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees until brown, about 12 minutes. Makes 30 mini-muffins.
The House on the Hill Inn has its own website with information on ordering a copy of their oh-so-inviting cookbook. You can write to the Tomalkas at innkeeper@thehouseonthehill.com.

Another spiral bound cookbook published in 1983 is “CULINARY COUNTERPOINT” published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Cookbook. This cookbook offers some recipes with unforgettable names, such as Hanky Pankys, Blinking Star, and Strip and go Naked! The recipe for a Ohio culinary treasure is BUCKEYE BALLS. (You will find Buckeye Balls at many sweet shops throughout Ohio – maybe Michigan too). To make Buckeye Balls you will need:
3 1-pound boxes powdered sugar
2 lbs smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 pound butter, softened
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ stick paraffin
Combine the sugar, peanut butter and butter and beat well. Roll into small balls and refrigerate, covered, overnight.
Melt the chocolate with the paraffin I the top section of a double boiler over hot water. Stick a toothpick in one of the peanut butter balls, then dip into the chocolate. Place on wax paper to harden. Repeat until all candies have been dipped in the chocolate. Makes about 60 candies.
Amazon.com has five copies for sale, starting at $5.98.
Another spiral-bound favorite is “Renaissance Cuisine” that went through three printings by the time I found it. This cookbook was the endeavor of The Fontbonne Auxiliary of St Joseph Hospital. The Fontbonne Auxiliary was founded by the Sisters of S Joseph of Nazareth in 1947,
I am often stymied when it comes to choosing just one recipe from a church or club cookbook-but the following might be good for company or something to getting cooking when you are home from the office and trying to get something cooking while you make up a salad to go with. Here is Chicken No Peek Casserole:

1 cup rice, uncooked
6 chicken breasts or pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 cup sherry
Slivered almonds
Grease a 9×13” pan. Place rice on bottom, place chicken on top of the rice. In a separate container, mix the mushroom soup and water and pour that over the chicken. Pour Sherry over chicken Sprinkle onion soup and slivered almonds over all. bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Do not peek. A fresh fruit or cranberry mold completes this meal.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: nowhere does the recipe advise you to cover the dish with foil before baking in the oven – but then it tells you note to peek. I would interpret that to mean it needs to be covered with foil. Someone else might interpret to mean not to look into the oven while it’s baking.)

Renaissance Cuisine is available on Amazon.com new or pre-owned starting at $2.99—and 4 new copies starting at $.43; you can’t beat that!

Although I have many more Michigan church and club cookbooks, most are probably not available on the internet. I tried to stick to cookbooks interested readers might have a chance to find. aLSO, i first posted this in 2011–while these Michigan cookbooks are still favorites of mine, I can’t be sure they are all stil available. It’s been my experience that many old cookbooks continue to find an audience and some of the best Michigan club cookbooks are often reprinted .

Happy cooking and Happy Cookbook collecting!
Sandy

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CHRISTMAS LOVE FROM YOUR KITCHEN

Originally posted in 2011

Back in the days when I was raising four sons literally on a shoestring, there was generally not enough money for ANY thing, much less the toys and games the boys would ask Santa to bring. My husband (now ex) was self employed most of those years and his income was unstable and sporadic.

I had to make do with what we had in the pantry for meals when sales became non-existent. We had spaghetti so often that my youngest son no longer will eat it at all. I kept large tins filled with dried spaghetti, rice or pinto beans. No one ever went hungry but they all undoubtedly got tired of meatballs and spaghetti and corn bread and beans, made with pinto beans in my mother in law’s West Virginia style.

That was during the years I was a stay at home mom – from 1965, when I quit my job at Weber Aircraft to stay at home, until 1977, when I was offered a dream job by a dear friend. I love that job so much! I was employed by them until I retired the end of 2002. And the best part was, there was always money for groceries after that. The downside, of course, was not being at home all of the time—such as the time my youngest son ran his bicycle into a telephone pole and ended up in the emergency room. But could I have prevented that accident? Probably not. But it wouldn’t have taken as long to get to the hospital.

Well, aside from that – way back when I had only two young sons—and we had a lot of friends and families back in Ohio, I began baking cookies and making candies to give as gifts for Christmas. Gradually, I worked my way up into jellies and jams (at first putting them in baby food jars), then chutneys and preserves and all sorts of other good things to eat—baking pumpkin bread or making fruitcakes.

This led to discovering all the great cookbooks devoted to the topic of gifts from your kitchen. One of my favorites—it still is—was a book titled WITH LOVE FROM YOUR KITCHEN BY Diana and Paul von Welanetz, published in 1976.

Back when I didn’t have ten thousand cookbooks taking over the house, WITH LOVE FROM YOUR KITCHEN was a frequently thumbed through cookbook and I think this is where I learned that you can make your own sauces, mustards and marinades, pickles, herb blends and some unusual jellies, such as one made
from champagne.

Others that I sometimes rely on are “WHAT SHOULD I BRING?” by Alison Boteler, published in 1992—this is a nice spiral bound cookbook with ideas for just about any occasion, not just Christmas—there are ideas for bridal and baby showers, greetings, goodbye and get well gifts, annual events and holiday housewarmers…and a lot more—plus plenty of tips for wrapping things – the latter is my downfall…but my daughter in law, Keara, has me spoiled; she does most of my gift wrapping. Another favorite of mine is GIFTS OF FOOD by Susan Costner, published in 1984. You will go crazy over the recipes—160 delectable recipes and how to wrap them.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I never noticed, before, how many of the titles in this category start out with “Gifts from –“ so let me give you a quick rundown on a few of them.

BH&Gs GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN, 1976

GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN, BY Carli Laklan and Frederick-Thomas, published 1955 by M Barrows & Co (a collection of 300 recipes)

GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN by Norma Myers and Joan Scobey, published in 1973 by Doubleday & Co. (over 200 coveted family recipes)

GIFTS FROM THE PANTRY BY Annette Grimsdale, copyright 1986, published by HP Books (this is one of those oversize as in long but narrow soft covered books. I have been making my pickled watermelon from this cookbook for many years—because it uses the GREEN part as well as white and pink) Lots of other good recipes as well.

GLORIOUS GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN by Lisa Yockelson, copyright 1984 – offers over 200 recipes.

GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN by Famous Brand Names, copyright 2003—lots of great illustrations—so you will know what it’s supposed to look like when you’re finished,

WOMAN’S DAY GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN, copyright 1976—no photographs but a lot of favorite recipes.

GOURMET GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN, BY Darcy Williamson, published in 1982

SEASONAL GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN, BY Emily Crumpacker, William Morrow & Company, 1983 (and oh, my! I bought this at the Book Loft in Columbus Ohio at the German Village…and the reason I know this? The sticker is still inside).

Also – THE GIFT-GIVERS COOKBOOK by Jane Green and Judith Choate, copyright 1971 and published by Simon & Schuster

And one more –

THE JOY OF GIVING HOMEMADE FOOD by Ann Seranne, copyright 1978 and published by David McKay Company. (If the name Ann Seranne sounds familiar – it should; she’s written many cookbooks. I’ll write something about Ann Seranne another time).

Well, this is just a sample of the gift-giving genre of cookbooks I have collected. Now that I have all of these out, I will have to thumb through them again and see what treasures I have forgotten.

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!

Sandra Lee Smith

THE BEST OF THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

You know, I am constantly trying new or different chocolate chip cookies and I have read about my quest on my blog. Not long ago I found the following recipe & decided IT is the best yet.

I have gotten in the habit of putting all the dry ingredients together—I line up the flour and other dry ingredients and put them through the sifter, then set it aside.(and I put away those ingredients so that I know I am finished with them. You may say well, duh, who doesn’t do that but I am well into my 70s and it’s a reminder for me.)

I have the room temperature butter and eggs set aside with the two kinds of sugar and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla. The chocolate chips and, if I am adding them– finely chopped walnuts or pecans are set aside to go in last. I am now ready to prepare the cookie dough.

To make these cookies you will need the following ingredients:

2¾ cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder ( yes, both baking soda and baking powder)
1 tsp cinnamon (this wasn’t in the original recipe; I added it).

Put all of these ingredients in your sifter in the order given so you will have a good distribution of the ingredients. Sift and set aside.

You will need 2 ½ sticks of unsweetened butter, softened to room temperature
1 ¾ cups dark brown sugar*
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 tsp real vanilla extract (I have learned over time to use good authentic vanilla extract)

*if you can’t find dark brown sugar, use the regular golden light brown sugar. for some reason I was unable to find dark brown for several months. When I did find it, I loaded up the grocery cart.

Beat the butter until it is well blended, then begin adding the dark brown sugar, then the granulated sugar. Next add the eggs, one at a time until blended. Lastly, add the vanilla. Now you begin adding the flour, usually about a cup at a time, until all the flour has been incorporated. Now remove the bowl from your electric mixer.

You will need to hand mix in the final ingredients.

When all the flour is mixed into the wet ingredients, stir in the chocolate chips. OK, the recipe says 2 cups of chips. I add a lot of chocolate chips (the good semi-sweet chocolate chips. I probably double the amount of chips to the recipe. If I am adding chopped pecans, I generally bake about half of the chocolate chip dough and then add the chopped pecans, because my family loves just plain chocolate chip cookies & they aren’t about to change their taste buds any time soon. I add pecans when the cookies are for the women I bowl with or anyone else who likes pecans.

Bake the cookies on parchment paper in a preheated 350 degree oven. If I am not in a hurry, I will do one tray at a time, 6 cookies to a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. I use a scoop that is the equivalent of two tablespoons, leveled. I bake the cookies for 5 minutes, then turn the tray around for another 5 minutes. If I am baking two trays of cookie dough at a time, I switch the trays, top to lower and front to back, for another five minutes of baking==in which case, you need to adjust the two racks as best fits your oven.

BEST thing you can do is bake a couple test cookies to see what works best for your oven. I have a very old 1940s stove that I love. and just so you know, I can still burn a tray of cookies, if I forget to set the timer–this usually happens around the end of the cookie baking when I start to clean up my baking materials. I have been doing this since my sons were young boys, so it has nothing to do with AGE, just a matter of paying attention to what I am doing.

I have been baking cookies once a week for the ladies I bowl with–they like them so much that when the league ended at the end of the year, the ladies gave me a big basket filled with flour, butter, chocolate chips, baking powder, 4 pounds of granulated sugar, 2 pounds of brown sugar, a bottle of vanilla extract–everything you need to make chocolate chip cookies! (how SWEET was THAT?)

I like to buy new cookie sheets about every 2 or 3 years but if you line the cookie sheets with parchment paper, the cookie sheets will last a lot longer. Just saying!

Sandra Smith aka the cookie lady

BEFORE EMAIL

THE FOLLOWING WAS POSTED ON MY BLOG IN 2010. i have made necessary changes to bring it up to date:

Before computers and email…a lot of people actually wrote honest-to-goodness letters. To help promote letter-writing amongst pen-pals, there were, in the 1960s through the 1980s, a group of monthly magazines, published by Tower Press, whose primary function was to bring together people (mostly women) who were looking for pen-pals with similar interests. The Tower Press magazine “WOMEN’S CIRCLE” published letters submitted by women who were looking for pen-pals, sometimes from foreign countries, or mothers with small children seeking other mothers with whom they could exchange ideas and find a sympathetic ear. However, if you were looking for a particular lost recipe or an old fondly-remembered cookbook, if you wanted to exchange post cards or stamps, whatever you were looking for—Women’s Circle was there to lend a helping hand. This monthly magazine even included a column for teenagers, called Teensville; girls and boys looking for pen-pals were invited to write a letter and submit a recent photo of themselves. Women’s Circle published the letters. The Exchange Column invited readers from everywhere in the world to write a letter, expressing their interests. Generally, along with your name and address, you included your date of birth and your wedding anniversary date, the names and ages of your children, as well as your hobbies and collections.

In addition to “WOMEN’S CIRCLE”, the Tower Press publishers also published a magazine called “GOOD OLD DAYS” which contained nostalgic photos, poems, drawings, cartoons, ads, songs, and articles. They also published a magazine called “WOMEN’S CIRCLE HOME COOKING” and, for people into sewing and crafts, there were “POPULAR NEEDLEWORK & CRAFTS”, “STITCH ‘N SEW”, “POPULAR HANDICRAFT & HOBBIES”, “AUNT JANE’S SEWING CIRCLE”, and “OLDE TIME NEEDLEWORK PATTERNS & DESIGNS”. Similar to “Women’s Circle” were “Women’s Household” and “Women’s Comfort” magazines.

When I began thinking about those “WOMEN’S CIRCLE” magazines I wondered – What happened to all of those Tower Press publications? An internet search revealed that the original issue of WOMEN’S CIRCLE magazine was published in February, 1960, ending with the March/April, 1997 issue. Tower Press was bought out by House of White Birches; the latter was founded over 50 years ago in New England by two brothers, Ed and Mike Kutlowski, who were pioneers in the magazine industry. The Kutlowskis retired in 1985 and sold their business to printers Carl and Art Muselman. The Muselmans moved the House of White Birches to Berne, their hometown, and the location of their printing company, EP Graphics. HWB currently publishes eight magazines, many of which were launched in the 1970s and are still popular today. Included are “GOOD OLD DAYS” and “HOME COOKING”. “HOME COOKING” appears to be the last remnant of the original Tower Press format of reader submission of favorite recipes. The idea of a magazine devoted primarily to pen-pals appears to have fallen by the wayside, overtaken, perhaps, by today’s computer generated email and chat rooms. (However, I was bemused to discover—in an Internet search on Google.com, an article written by a young woman who happened to discover an old issue of “WOMEN’S HOUSEHOLD” at an antique store. Consequently, she and some friends started up a monthly publication they call “American Homebody” which was based on Women’s Household. The author wrote, “I liked the neighborliness of ‘Women’s Household’ and was intrigued by the way the magazine created a community of like-minded individuals scattered across the country who looked forward each month for articles about women…” So, it seems, the memory—and ideas– of “WOMEN’S HOUSEHOLD” and “WOMEN’S CIRCLE” live on.

Go back with me, in time, and let me share with you how things were before email came along.

I began subscribing to Women’s Circle in the mid 1960s. Specifically, I think I “discovered” WC in 1965. I think I began finding the magazine on the magazine racks of the supermarket where we shopped. Around that same time, I became interested in collecting cookbooks. Simultaneously, a friend of mine told me about a Culinary Arts Institute cookbook on Hungarian cuisine that she was searching for.

“I bet I know where we can find it!” I told her. I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle, asking for the cookbook, offering to pay cash. As an afterthought, I added that I was interested in buying/exchanging for old cookbooks, particularly club-and-church cookbooks. Little did I suspect what an avalanche of mail would fill my mailbox when my letter was published! I received over 250 letters. We purchased several of the Hungarian cookbooks and I began buying/trading for many other cookbooks which formed the nucleus of my cookbook collection. And I have to tell you something that I think was pretty spectacular—I was never “cheated” or short-changed by anyone. Even more spectacular were the friendships that I formed, as a result of that one letter, which still exist to this day.

One of the first letters I received was from another cookbook collector, a woman who lived in Michigan. Betsy and I—both young mothers at the time (now grandmothers)—have remained pen-pals for over 50 years, while our children grew up, married, and had children of their own. The first time I met Betsy and her husband, Jim, they drove from Michigan to Cincinnati, where I was visiting my parents, to pick up me and my children, so that we could spend a week visiting them in Michigan. A few years later, my friends repeated the gesture – driving hundreds of miles to Cincinnati to pick us up and then returning us to my parents’ home a week or so later. On one of those trips, I took my younger sister Susie along with us and we all have fond memories of going blueberry picking at a berry farm. We visited the Kellogg factory and went to some of the flea markets where you could find hundreds of club-and-church cookbooks for as little as ten cents each (remember, this was the 1960s!). On one of those visits, I met Betsy’s British pen-pal, Margaret, who was also visiting. We had such a wonderful time together.

Also in 1965, I responded to a letter written to “WOMEN’S CIRCLE” by an Australian woman named Margaret. She was seeking penpals but received such a flood of letters from the USA that she took them to her tennis club, spread them out on a table and said “If anyone would like an American pen-friend, here you are!” A young woman named Eileen—who was, like myself, married to a man named Jim, and—like me—also had a son named Steven—chose my letter. We’ve been corresponding ever since. In 1980, when we were living in Florida, we met Eileen and Jim for the first time and from the time they got off the plane and walked up to us, it was just like greeting an old friend or relative. (We liked—and trusted—them so much that we lent our camper to them to drive around the USA). When they reached Los Angeles, they contacted, and met, friends of ours who lived in the San Fernando Valley. About a year later, our friends from California were visiting us, when the best friends of my Aussie friends’ (who lived in London) contacted us in Miami and paid us a visit. The following year, when my California friends visited London, they paid a return visit to their new London acquaintances. (I hope you have followed all of this. It’s sort of like the begats. One friendship begat another one. Years later, the London couple would immigrate to Australia and we became better friends via email, exchanging recipes and gardening tips. Sadly, the husband of one of my Aussie friends lost his battle with cancer recently. It’s like losing a life-long friend!

Another young woman who wrote to me was a housewife/mother who lives near Salem, Oregon. She wrote in response to a letter that I had written to Tower Press, noting that we shared the same birthday. In 1974, Bev & Leroy and their children visited us on their way to Disneyland. In 1978, my husband and children and I drove to Oregon where we visited my pen-pal and her family. I’ve lost count of the number of times they have visited us in California. And yes, we’re still penpals. In 2007, I flew to Portland and they met my flight. We spent a week together, visiting lighthouses – and for our joint birthday, Leroy took us to Three Sisters, Oregon, for the day. It was snowing in the cascades! No snow at lower elevations – we thought it was a good birthday present from the heavens.

Another pen-pal acquired in the 1960s was my friend Penny, who lives in Oklahoma. We first visited Penny and her husband Charles and their three sons in 1971, on our way to Cincinnati for a summer vacation. We spent a night at Penny’s and were sent on our way the next morning with a bagful of her special chocolate chip cookies. What I remember most about that visit was my father’s reaction when we arrived in Cincinnati. He kept asking, “How do you know these people in Oklahoma?” (The concept of pen-pals was a foreign one to both my parents).

Two other pen-pals were acquired when we moved to Florida. Lonesome and homesick, I wrote yet another letter to Women’s Circle, and mentioned my love of Christmas (and preparing for it all year long). One of these was a woman in Louisiana and the other was an elderly widowed lady who lived in my home state of Ohio. We were penpals for 25 years.

The downside to having penpals, if there is a downside, is that sometimes letters stop coming – both of these women had become old and had many health issues…perhaps there is no one left to write to their pals to tell you what had happened to them. I think by now they have passed away.

Before everyone owned a computer and Internet services flooded the market – we had Prodigy. The concept of Prodigy, at that time, was to offer bulletin boards to which you could write, asking for friends, recipes, whatever. It was through Prodigy that I became acquainted with my friend Pat and her husband Stan. We met for the first time when Bob & I went to the L.A. County Fair one year. Pat & Stan came to visit us at our motel in Pomona; they lived in nearby Covina. Eventually, Prodigy would be overcome by AOL, Earthlink, Juno—and the dozens of other Internet services which have changed our lives so drastically. I think the one greatest thing about the Internet is that it has brought so many of our family members and friends back together again.

As for “WOMEN’S CIRCLE”—the first food-related articles I sold were to this magazine. It was thrilling to see these published. One included photographs that a photographer friend took for me. Then, in 1977, I went back to work full-time and the Tower Press magazines slipped from my radar. But the friendships forged by these magazines have remained an integral part of my life. Yours too, I hope.

And now we have- the Internet…Facebook and blogs, such as this one of mine, sandychatter. But there is still much to be said for the art of writing letters, of finding letters and cards from all over the USA in your
mailbox. Much nicer than finding only bills and flyers in the mailbox!

In 2005, a penpal named Wendy was publishing a newsletter called Inky Trail News and this in turn led to her forming groups, such as one for retirees—Wendy herself has long since retired and the groups have mostly faded away—however, two women, Canadians, became my own personal good friends—not just penpals and the three of us email one another daily.

In 2008, Sharon came to visit me and we did a grand California tour for two weeks, visiting the Redwoods and Yosemite. Then, in 2009, I visited Sharon in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and had the time of my life meeting her friends and doing all the touristy things one does at Niagara Falls. All because of being penpals!

There are undoubtedly other newsletters for those of us who grew up with penpals in our lives. Sometimes penpals come into your life and stay forever while others may come and go. I am reminded of a Vietnamese refugee penpal I had while in high school. She attended a Catholic high school in New York while I attended one in Cincinnati. The nuns offered to exchange names and Anne Nam Hai became my penpal. I lost contact with Anne after graduating from high school. But oh, the joy, over the years, of exchanging letters, recipes, photographs and sometimes small gifts with a penpal far away—email on the internet may fill some of the void but I have to tell you, I still get a thrill finding real letters in my mailbox. And my lady mail carrier – who has only known me for severa; years – knows when I have received a box of cookbooks from my penpal in Michigan and always carries the box up to the door. 

Before Email….all we had were letters – and even though I am still an avid letter writer, I have to admit – computers have greatly broadened our horizons.

–Sandra Lee Smith

OUTDOOR WATER SAVING TIPS FOR CALIFORNIANS

OUTDOOR WATER SAVING TIPS FOR CALIFORNIANS

1. WATER BEFORE SUNRISE WHEN TEMPS ARE COOLER. THIS WILL REDUCE WATER LOSS FROM WIND AND EVAPORATION EACH TIME YOU WATER. SAVE 25 GALLONS EACH TIME YOU WATER.

2. WATER DEEPLY BUT LESS FREQUENTLY TO CREATE HEALTHIER AND STRONGER LANDSCAPES. USE THIS EASY CALCULATOR: HTTP://WWW.BEWATERWISE.COM/CALCULATOR HTML

3. CHECK YOUR SPRINKLER SYSTEM FREQUENTLY AND ADJUST SPRINKLERS SO ONLY YOUR LAWN IS WATERED AND NOT THE HOUSE, SIDEWALK OR STREET. FOR MORE TIPS VISIT: WWW.SAVEOURWATER.COM. CLICK ON SPRINKLERS 101

4. USE A BROOM TO CLEAN DRIVEWAYS, SIDEWALKS AND PATIOS TO AVOID FINES AND SAVE: 8-18 GALLONS/MINUTE.

5. WASH CARS/BOATS WITH A BUCKET, SPONGE AND HOSE WITH SELF-CLOSING NOZZLE

6. PUT A LAYER OF MULCH AROUND TREES AND PLANTS TO REDUCE EVAPORATIONS AND KEEP THE SOIL COOL. ORGANIC MULCH ALSO IMPROVES THE SOIL AND PREVENTS WEEDS. SAVE: 20-30 GALLS/EACH TIME YOU WATER.

7. PLANT DROUGHT-RESISTANT TREES AND PLANTS. SAVE 30-60 GALLONS EACH TIME YOU WATER/ 1,000 SQ FT.

8. CHOOSE A WATER-EFFICIENT IRRIGATION SYSTEMS SUCH AS DRIP IRRIGATION FOR YOUR TREES, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS. REMEMBER TO TURN IT OFF WHEN IT RAINS. SAVE: 15 GALLONS EACH TIME YOU WATER.

PROVIDED BY THE QUARTZ HILL WATER DISTRICT

THE KITCHEN DIARIES

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

Then I became interested in recipe boxes when I found an old, green, wooden recipe box in Ventura, California, at an antique store. It was packed with the former owner’s collection of recipes. I was so intrigued by this type of collection – what I think of as a kitchen diary – that I began a diligent search for filled recipe boxes. These are just about as scarce and hard to find as handwritten cookbooks. Often, you can find recipe boxes – in thrift stores or antique shops – but they are usually empty. I think the storekeepers don’t imagine anyone would be interested in the contents, which are often scrappy little pieces of paper, recipes clipped from the back of a bag of macaroni or flour, recipes written on a piece of envelope, – but over the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve managed to find quite a few of these filled recipe boxes. One time my niece, who lives in Palm Springs, found three of them for me at a yard sale; it helps that so many people know about my fascination with old, filled recipe boxes. Another time, a girlfriend of mine was telling me about helping a friend of hers clear out her mother’s apartment, after her mother had passed away. “Oh,” I said “Ask your friend if her mother had any recipe boxes”. She did – and I got it. She also had, and gave to me, several cookbook autographed by cookbook author Mike Roy, with whom her mother had been acquainted. On yet another occasion, I was given half a dozen filled recipe boxes that had belonged to the aunt of a woman I worked with.

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted 4/2011

GOODBYE, MOCKINGBIRD

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—-Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it” – Harper Lee quote from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

“Shoot all the blue jays if you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” – from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

In the Saturday, February 20, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times, they printed a lengthy obituary of a very well-known author, Harper Lee, who passed away at the age of 89. I was a huge fan of her 1960 novel “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”

Until Charles Shields wrote “MOCKINGBIRD, A PORTRAIT OF HARPER LEE” published in 2006 by Henry Holt and Company, too not much was known about Harper Lee, who remained a very private person for most of her life.

Despite this, she endured “a punishing promotional tour” to promote the film “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”, starring Gregory Peck in 1962.

One writer noted that “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” published in 1960 at dawn of the civil-rights struggle has been called the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of its day.

Like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic, MOCKINGBIRD is built around the depredations visited on a black man in the South, Tom Robinson, who is defended against a trumped-up rape charge by a white lawyer named Atticus Finch.

The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and sold over 30 million copies in dozens of languages. In fact, it has not been out of print since it was first published and has been required reading in many high schools.

Shortly after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was published, it was picked up by the Book-of-the-Month-Club and the Literary Club and a condensed version appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine.

“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts” – from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

The following year, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD won the Pulitzer Prize as well as several other literary awards. Horton Foote wrote a screenplay based on the novel and used the same title for the 1962 film adaptation. Lee visited the set during filming and gave a lot of interviews to support the project.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD earned eight Academy Award nominations; the movie version won three awards, including best actor for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Finch. The character is said to have been based on Lee’s father.

In 2007, President George W. Bush presented Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her “outstanding contribution to America’s literary tradition”, at a ceremony at the White House

(I am noting that she never refused attendance for events such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom; after reading articles on Google and the lengthy article that appeared in the L.A. Times on February 20, 2016, I don’t think Lee was against luncheons with her friends of family or friends—I concluded that she just got fed up with reporters and as a rule refused all requests for interviews).

In 2007, also, Lee suffered a stroke and struggled with various ongoing health problems including hearing loss and limited vision and problems with short-term memory.

After the stroke, Lee moved into an assisted living facility in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Using a magnifying device to read, necessary for her macular degeneration, Lee was able to keep up with reading. Her sister once said that “books are the things she cares about”.

In 2013 Lee filed a lawsuit in a federal court against literary agent Samuel Pinkus charging that in 2007 Pinkus engaged in a scheme to dupe her out of the coyright TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, later diverting royalties from the work.

In September 2013, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit.

In 2014, Lee allowed TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to be released as an e-book; she signed a deal with HarperCollins to release TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as an e-book and digital audio editions. But, Lee explained (for which I wholeheartedly understand) that she was “Still old fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries…” She said she was amazed and humbled that MOCKINGBIRD has survived this long.

While TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was the first novel Lee had published, it wasn’t the first one she wrote. Her first novel, GO SET A WATCHMAN had been submitted to a publisher in 1957. When the novel wasn’t accepted, Lee’s editor asked her to revise the story and make her main character, Scout, a child. Lee worked on the story for two years and it eventually became TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD.

For decades, Lee shunned requests for interviews and claimed she was finished with writing—so that when HarperCollins announced in early 2015 that they planned to publish a new Harper Lee novel, they received a mixed bag of responses—from delight to dismay. The title of the “new” novel, GO SET A WATCHMAN was actually written years earlier and was discovered by Lee’s lawyer in Harper’s safe-deposit box.

With reports that 88-year old Lee suffered failing health, questions arose about the publication of the novel. Lee issued a statement that she was “alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to WATCHMAN”. Alabama officials investigated and found no evidence that she was a victim to coercion.

Controversy aside, WATCHMAN broke pre-sale records for publishing house HarperCollins and was on target to become one of the fastest selling literary works in history.

Harper Lee (whose first name was actually Nelle) passed away in her sleep on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89, in an assisted living facility in Monroeville, Alabama.

“People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for” – from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

And finally, she wrote, in MOCKINGBIRD, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what”.

I was going on twenty years old when TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” was published. There was a reason why it resonated with me, personally, as a human being. I don’t think I ever suffered from any racial feelings or beliefs.

When I was about fifteen years old, I wrote a short fictional story called THE STORY OF GLENDA. Glenda was a young woman whose father was a black man and her mother was a white woman. I would type my stories one page at a time, single spaced—and then share them with childhood girlfriends and high school classmates who all waited with bated breath for the next installment.

About the time Lee was writing TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I was writing short stories trying to change the racial beliefs of people with whom I came in contact. I didn’t know or come in contact with any African Americans throughout my childhood or adolescence.

God is good; fourteen years ago, my biracial grandson was born. He is the light of our lives.

Harper Lee also wrote “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience”.

–Sandra Lee Smith