Category Archives: Recipes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith


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

To make Outstanding Oatmeal cookies, you will need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

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

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

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

Cream Cheese/Mascarpone Frosting

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

Pre-heat oven to 350 F

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

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

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

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

To prepare Cream Cheese/Mascarpone Icing:

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

To assemble:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith


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

Since posting the first “Back to Basics” I began finding a lot more “basic” recipes in my files. What I mean about basic recipes is those things you can easily make from scratch instead of using a prepackaged mix that generally costs a lot more than making your own – or in some instances, such as one with my younger sister, when she wanted to make something like tacos for dinner and discovered she was out of taco seasoning mix. Now she makes her own taco seasoning mix all the time. (Another bonus to making your own – there’s often no telling how long the seasoning mix was on the store shelves or in a warehouse before you bought it). When you mix your own, you know how old the spices or seasonings in your kitchen are. Anyway, here are some more basic recipes that you can print and keep in your own recipe box.


You will need:

2 cups low fat or no fat cottage cheese
¼ cup plain yogurt
eggbeaters to equal 1 egg
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP water
½ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a blender container and process until smooth. Use for potato topping or dips.

Sandy’s Cooknote: The beauty of this recipe is that you can use no fat cottage cheese and by using egg beaters, you have a VERY LOW calorie/no fat recipe. The original recipe called for 1 egg–given that you aren’t cooking anything, I have changed it to eggbeaters to equal one egg.


¾ CUP brown sugar
2 TBSP soft butter or margarine
¼ tsp salt
½ cup hot evaporated milk

Put all ingredients into blender container. Cover and process at mix until sugar is dissolved.

You will need:

2 CUPS fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
¼ cup parsley flakes, crumbled

Combine spices. Mix well. Pack loosely in jar. Use as coating for veal, pork, poultry or fish to be sautéed. Makes about 3 cups.


You will need:

6 TBSP coarse ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar (optional)
½ tsp dried sweet red pepper
½ tsp dried finely minced onion
1 tsp paprika
1/3 tsp dried sweet green pepper

Combine spices and stir with wooden spoon. Pack tightly in glass jars. Makes about ½ cup.

Sandy’s cooknote: Ok, I do a lot of cooking but have never heard of dried sweet red or green pepper. BUT I think you could easily make your own. I chop up bell peppers when they are on sale and freeze them. I think I could just as easily dry a little of each, red and green in my oven or dehydrator to have it on hand. I’ll give this a try and get back to you on the results.


You will need:

1 TBSP salt
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp round red pepper
¾ tsp black pepper
¾ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground bay leaves
¼ tsp chili powder

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. Sprinkle on sea food, chicken or beef before grilling. Yield ¼ cup.


You will need:

1 ½ TBSP sugar
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP dried thyme
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients. Store mixture in an airtight container. Sprinkle on chicken or seafood before grilling. Yield 1/3 cup.


You will need:

2 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black better
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp sugar

Mix. Store in an airtight container.

Sandy’s cooknote: You will note that all of these recipes advise keeping the spice or seasoning in airtight containers. You don’t have to go out and buy a lot of jars or plastic containers. I save all kinds and sizes of glass jars when they are empty of what ever came with them. Wash them really good and remove the labels. When you put a seasoning into one of them, label it and include the date so you will remember when you made it. When I had babies, those baby food jars really came in handy for things like seasoning mixes.


You will need:

3 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP EACH salt, dried parsley, onion powder and garlic powder, oregano, basil and thyme
½ tsp celery salt

Stir well. Store in an airtight container.


You will need:

2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP garlic salt
1 TBSP paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cup vegetable oil

In a small mixing bowl, combine all seasonings. Blend in oil, forming a paste. May be refrigerated up to 2 weeks. To use, brush mixture on whole chicken or chicken pieces and let stand 1 hr at room temperature or at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before roasting or grilling, until chicken is cooked through. Makes enough to season 7 to 8 pounds of chicken. Note: Add 2-3 TBSP lime juice to mixture if desired.


You will need:

1/4 CUP dried minced onion
2 TBSP instant beef bouillon
½ tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients. This makes the equivalent of one package of soup mix.


You will need:

1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP dried oregano
2 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried basil]
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use in omelets and to season fish, vegetables or chicken. Makes ¼ cup.

The following are a few good recipes for making your own marinades:


You will need:

1 CUP soy sauce
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, halves
¼ cup Kitchen Bouquet*
2 tsp Beau Monde seasoning

Combine soy sauce, onion and garlic in blender ad high speed 1 minute or until mix is smooth. Stir in Kitchen Bouquet and Beau Monde seasoning. Makes 2 ½ cups.
To marinate: arrange steaks in shallow glass baking dish (or use a zip lock bag) and pour ½ cup marinade over each steak or chop. Allow to stand at room temp 2 hours OR cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours, then bring meat to room temperature before cooking.

Sandy’s cooknote: Kitchen Bouquet! It’s a flavor enhancer that makes brown gravies a nice dark rich brown and is wonderful in pot roasts. My mother always had a tiny bottle of Kitchen Bouquet in the kitchen cupboard. Well, it floored me, the cost of those little bottles – we have a warehouse-kind of supermarket that is called Smart & Final, but I would imagine that Sam’s Club and/or Costco might keep the large quart size bottle in stock. I get a QUART bottle for about the same price as those little bitty ones. I swear by Kitchen Bouquet and wouldn’t be without it. Beau Monde is another but that’s another story.


You will need:

1 cup red wine*
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic. Crushed
1/3 tsp crushed rosemary
½ tsp EACH salt & pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp marjoram

Blend ingredients and let stand overnight. Remove garlic clove. Cover and store until ready to use.

Sandy’s cooknote: A lot of my recipes call for red wine. I keep a LARGE bottle of Burgundy wine in the kitchen pantry – just for these recipes.


You will need:

2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP soy sauce
¼ cup dry (red or white) wine
2 tsp Tarragon or thyme
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients. Add more salt and pepper if you want. Marinate chicken or turkey overnight or brush on 15-20 minutes before grilling.


You will need:

2 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
3 TBSP packed dark brown sugar
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh orange or lime juice
1 ½ tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Thinly slice garlic and in a small saucepan, cook in oil over moderately low heat just until it begins to turn golden. Remove pan from heat and with a slotted spoon, discard garlic. In oil in pan, add remaining ingredients and salt & pepper to taste. Cool marinade. Makes about 1 cup, enough marinade for 1 ½ to 2 pounds chicken or shrimp.


You will need:

¼ cup salad oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup beer
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
¾ tsp pepper
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp crushed basil leaves
¼ tsp crushed oregano leaves

Blend all ingredients

To make beef kabobs:

You will need

1 ½ lbs flank steak
beer marinade
1 large green pepper, parboiled
12 cherry tomatoes
12 medium mushroom halves
12 small white onions, parboiled

Cut flank steak crosswise on the diagonal into 1” wide strips. There should be about 12 good strips. Place meat and marinade in a bowl and chill overnight. Cut green pepper into 12 small squares. For each kabob, thread meat alternatively with 1 green pepper square, 1 cherry tomato, 1 mushroom half and 1 onion on skewer. Broil 6-8” from source of heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until meat is desired doneness. Brush with marinade before turning.

Sandy’s Cooknote: I know a little something about making shish-kabobs. We made them for YEARS while my sons were growing up. We had an assembly line going for threading the kabobs on skewers. If you are using bamboo skewers, you should know the skewers should be soaked in cold water for several hours before using, so they don’t catch on fire. But metal skewers are inexpensive and you can stock up on them to have a bunch on hand if you are feeding company. Personally, I like to toss the mushrooms into a pot of boiling water for a minute or so – OR cook them a while in melted butter…they will go on the skewers more easily & taste better too. You can use that same melted butter to brush on the kabobs when they are cooking. We also would cut up hot dogs and wrap raw bacon around them to stretch the meat (I was raising four sons). I liked to cut the meat (often something like London Broil) into bite-size chunks and then marinate it for a few hours in something like a red-wine marinade with tenderizer sprinkled on, so that the meat was good and tender. Kabobs is a good company meal. Sometimes we also used chicken breast, cut into chunks – and when my son Steve was being lavish (and doing the cooking) he would get a pound of halibut and cut that into chunks to go onto the skewers. All great eating.


You will need:

¼ tsp crushed red chile flakes
1 tsp rubber dry sage
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/3 tsp celery seed
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley, optional
1 tsp finely minced lemon zest
½ cup apple cider
4 tsp cider vinegar
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
¼ cup cooking oil

Whisk together red chile flakes, sage, thyme, celery seed, sugar, parsley, lemon zest, apple cider, vinegar, mustard and oil. Use to marinate chicken breasts or pork chops at least for 4 hours or up to 8 hours. Will keep refrigerated up to 1 week.
Happy Cooking!

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


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


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

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


Beautiful Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearty Clam Chowder

Makes 9-10 servings

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

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

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

My Clam Chowder:

5-6 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, shredded

1 cup sliced celery

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

1 can undiluted Cream of Mushroom Soup

2-4 cans of minced clams, including broth

Salt & pepper to taste

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

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

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

GINGERY PUMPKIN SOUP (this is very low in fat)

2 tsp vegetable oil

2 shallots, minced (2 TBSP)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger*

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 cups reduced-sodium defatted chicken broth

1 cup orange juice

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp minced orange zest

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

A pinch of ground cloves

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

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (also optional)

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

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


3 medium potatoes

1 quart milk

1 small onion, sliced

2 TBSP flour

3 TBSP butter or margarine

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp celery salad

few grains cayenne pepper

1 tsp chopped parsley

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


1 TBSP butter or margarine

1 cup chopped leeks or onions

1 cup diced red or green bell peppers

2 lbs (6 medium) potatoes, diced 1/2″

3 cups chicken broth

2 tsp dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 cup low fat milk

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

1/4 cup cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

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


3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

1 can cream of corn

1/2 to 3/4 bag frozen corn

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Black pepper

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


3  slices bacon, diced

3 large potatoes peeled and cubed

5 cups water

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 tsp salt

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

1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

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


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

2 ½ cups diced peeled potatoes (about 6 large)

2-4 cups water

1 TBSP salt

1-2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 TBSP butter

¼ tsp pepper (white is best but not necessary)

¼ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp garlic salt

4 cups milk

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

 Mexican Tortilla Soup

Weight Watchers style

8 ounces cooked, skinless, diced chicken

1 cup sliced or diced carrots

2 cups sliced thin celery

2 cups shredded or chopped cabbage

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup mild chilies

1 cup green beans

1 can whole kernel corn

½ cup diced bell peppers

1 qt tomato juice

1 qt V8 juice (or 2 quarts tomato juice)

1 qt tomatoes

2-3 chicken bouillon cubes

Water, if necessary, to make 6 quarts

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

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

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

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

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




2 ½ cups fish stock

¼ cup tomato sauce

2 TBSP diced celery

2 TBSP diced onion

2 TBSP diced green pepper

2 TBSP diced tomato

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground oregano

1 bay leaf


¾ cup shredded Jack cheese

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

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

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

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


10 CUPS strong chicken broth

2 cups diced onion

¼ cup oil

6 cloves garlic

2 cups cooked chicken

2 tsp ground cumin

1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies

1 15-oz can stewed tomatoes

1 ½ tsp salt

½ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

¼ cup grated cheese per bowl

tortilla chips or corn chips

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

T.G.I. Friday’s French Onion Soup

3-4 medium to large onions

3 cans of beef broth


Worcestershire sauce


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

French baguette

2 bay leaves

Dash of garlic powder

Dash of both salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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


What is as fine as a bowl of soup

In a tureen, carried hot to the table,

Or a beef stew simmered with veggies and meat,

As wondrous as an old Aesop fable;

I love noodle soup or a tomato bisque,

My chili falls into this category,

French onion soup with melted cheese,

Russian Borscht served in all its beet glory.

Mushroom soup! PepperPot!

Or a Consomme!

Won Ton Soup! Morel Soup!

Cream of Pea and crackers on a tray!

Black Bean Soup! Cabbage Soup!

Or a pot of New England Chowder!

(Not for me Manhattan style–

For that I’d have to take a powder!)

Perhaps some Mulligatawny Soup,

Or some Minestrone!

I’d even eat some Bouillabaisse,

As long as it’s not boney!

Bring me a bowl of Orleans gumbo, 

Or any soup that’s bold,

Or let us have gazpacho that’s

Always served up cold.

Serve me cream of celery soup!

Carrot soup with Curry!

Bring me soups that cook all day

But dish up in a hurry;

Serve me spicy peanut soup

Or turkey soup with rice–

I’d gladly eat green lentil soup

But meatball soup is also nice.

Soup for breakfast! Soup for lunch!

Soup for a late night supper;

Let me have a cup of soup,

For a pick-me-upper.

Let me have War Won-Ton Soup,

Or Tortilla soup that’s spicy,

Let me have a cockle soup

Or lobster bisque that’s pricey!

Serve me cock-a-leekie soup

Or Egg Drop soup from China,

Serve it fancy, serve it plain,

I’m never going to mind-a,

Soups can be hearty or else light –

Feed one or feed a troop –

I’ll never tire or get enough

Of delicious homemade soup.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Happy Cooking! Sandy





(originally posted on my blog in 2009)

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make this vegetable soup, you will need:


2 quarts quartered tomatoes

2 dozen medium carrots, sliced

2 quarts cut green beans

2 cups chopped celery

½ cup chopped parsley

1 small head cabbage, chopped

4 small onions, chopped

½ cup rice or barley

2 quarts hot water


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

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

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


To make SKINNY SOUP, you will need:

3 stalks celery, diced

3 large carrots, diced

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 sweet onion, diced

½ head cabbage, sliced

½ pound fresh or frozen cauliflower cut up

2 medium potatoes, diced

1 cup frozen peas

3 cups water

2 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped (optional)

1 46-oz can tomato juice, preferably low sodium

2 TBSP fresh dill or 1 tsp dried

2 TBSP fresh basil or 1 tsp dried

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp ground pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping (optional)

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


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

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

1 46-oz can tomato juice

1 3-oz pkg ramen oriental noodles with beef flavoring

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

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


To make ALL NEW BASIC SOUP, you will need:

5 medium carrots cut into 1” slices

3 medium celery stalks, sliced

3 large onions, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 cans (28 oz) tomatoes in juice

1 small head cabbage, sliced thin

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

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

½ cup fresh parsley or ¼ cup dried parsley

2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

12 cups water

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

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

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

To make MEXICAN VEGETABLE SOUP, you will need:

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

2 TBSP salad oil

1 envelope chili seasoning mix

6 cups water

1 1-lb can tomatoes

1 can beef broth

1 1-lb can cream style corn

1 small summer squash, peeled and sliced

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

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

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


To make VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP, you will need:

3 medium carrots, chopped

2 large potatoes, cut into small cubes

1 medium onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, with tops, chopped

½ tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

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

¾ (or 1 lb) extra lean ground beef

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

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

Makes 10 servings.

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

To make MULTI-VEGETABLE SOUP you will need:

2 TBSP butter or margarine

2 TBSP cooking oil

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup thinly sliced zucchini

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

1 large onion, chopped

2 beef bouillon cubes

2 tsp salt

8 cups boiling water

1 tsp Accent (optional)

1 can (16 oz) stewed tomatoes

¼ cup uncooked broken spaghetti

½ tsp thyme

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

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

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

1 ½ pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cubed

1 tbsp vegetable oil

10 medium fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut up

2 cups tomato juice

2 medium size onions, chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp pepper

2 tsp salt (optional)

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

5 carrots, cleaned and sliced

2 cups frozen or fresh corn

2 cups frozen or fresh green beans

2 cups frozen peas

3 ribs celery, sliced

1 cup sliced butternut squash

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

1 tsp sugar

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

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

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

appy Cooking!