250 Cookbooks: Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook

Cookbook #59: Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook. Hershey Foods Corporation, USA, 1971.

Hershey's 1934 CookbookI have four “Hershey’s” small cookbooks and this 1971 one is my oldest. The full title is “Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, Revised and expanded with chocolate recipes brought up to date for use in today’s kitchen.” From the forward:

“Thirty-seven years ago, in 1934, Hershey published its own chocolate cookbook, filled with all kinds of wonderful chocolate desserts. It is from this source that many of the recipes have been taken and brought up to date for you to use today. We’ve revised some of the recipes, and added some others. Margarine wasn’t around when the first Hershey book was published. Neither were electric blenders or no-stick pans, all the things that make baking a lot easier for you than it was for your mother. Even though the method of baking has become more convenient, the end product remains essentially the same. Hershey’s test kitchens have taken painstaking care to assure the same wonderful flavor that has become a trademark of Hershey baked products throughout the years. We hope you enjoy the recipes, we hope you enjoy the book.”

The first dozen or so pages are devoted to old photos and a bit of nostalgia about the depression times: wages, the price of food, and a woman’s role in the kitchen: “nobody could bake like your mother”. It’s interesting reading. It makes me think how cooks used to have to spend hours making meals for the family, and then hours washing clothes and cleaning house. Today I can instead spend hours in the kitchen playing making flavored oils and being creative. Cooking can be now be just a hobby, not a chore.

I’ve used this cookbook for a chocolate cake recipe and as a reference when I needed to make other basic chocolate items, like chocolate sauce and brownies. I haven’t used it a lot, though, because we usually shy away from rich desserts because of calories, and when I want to make something old-fashioned and rich, I’ll look for one of my own mother’s recipes. The book is correct, nobody can bake like my mother did.

I passed over all of the rich dessert recipes and chose a recipe for a chocolate yeast bread, “Raisin-Nut Cocoa Bread”. This recipe is relatively low in fat and sugar, and is packed with the nutritional benefits of raisins (or dates), walnuts, and oatmeal. I plan to use this bread as toast for breakfasts. Ummm, should be extra good with cream cheese!

Raisin-Nut Cocoa Bread recipeOne of “all the things that make baking a lot easier for you than it was for your mother” that we have in 2014 is a breadmaker. I will use mine to knead and rise a half-recipe of this dough, then bake it in one 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. My experience tells me that this is the more appropriate size pan for this amount of dough. For the oatmeal, I will cook some of my favorite extra-thick rolled oats. To make enough for the batter, I boiled 1 1/4 cup water and added 5/8 cup oats and cooked for about 5 minutes. It makes just a little more than one cup.

Raisin-Nut Cocoa Bread
makes one 8 x 4-inch loaf

  • 1 package dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (see my note in the above paragraph)
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 3 – 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, or dates cut in small pieces (I used some of each and probably more than 1/2 cup total)

Put the yeast, water, brown sugar, butter, cooked oatmeal, cocoa, and 3 cups of the flour in the pan of a breadmaker. Set to the “dough” cycle and start the process. Watch the dough as it is kneaded and add more flour if necessary. This is a heavy dough and may take awhile to come together into a ball of dough. Add a little water if it is not sticking together.

If your breadmaker automatically adds raisins (etc.), set it up to do so. Otherwise, add the nuts and raisins (and dates) during the last five minutes of the kneading cycle.

When the dough has risen, take it out of the breadmaker and form it into a loaf and put it in the loaf pan. Let it rise in a warm kitchen about 45 minutes. This dough is heavy and will never puff up a lot.

Bake at 375˚ for 35 minutes. Take out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack.


This loaf turned out fine. It’s a dense, heavy bread, and very tasty. I had it for breakfast about four days in a row – just thinking of it made me eager to get out of bed!

Here is my loaf before the rise-in-the-pan step. Note that it is just about to the rim of the pan. I know that the raisins on the outside will burn in the baking step, so I pull a few of them off:

RNB before risingHere it is after about 45 minutes, risen and ready to put in the oven:

RNB risenAnd here it is baked:

RNB bakedAnd on a rack:

RNB on rackNo, it’s not the prettiest-looking loaf I’ve made, but it sure tastes good. Here is a slice, half with whipped cream cheese, on a plate of my Nana’s depression glassware:

RNB slicedYum!

250 Cookbooks: Michael Chiarello’s Flavored Oils and Vinegars

Cookbook #58: Michael Chiarello’s Flavored Oils and Vinegars. Michael Chiarello, Chronicle Books, LLC, San Francisco, CA, 2006.

Michael Chiarellol's Flavored Oils and VinegarsMy daughter gave me this cookbook. As a gift, along with a pretty cruet that I use to store olive oil.

This is a wonderful, contemporary cookbook. And a bit different from run-of-the-mill tomes, as it teaches how flavored oils and vinegars can bring bright flavors to meals. I admit that when I first got this cookbook, I made a couple oils then put the book away. But that’s before I had time to play with new recipes, and before I learned more about herbs and spices in the cooking classes that I took.

Chiarello presents basic methods for making the oils and vinegars, and shows how to use them in recipes. The techniques are not difficult nor long and tedious. Today, this sounds like a fun project for this ex-chemist!

I’d like to try a lot of the recipes (besides just making the oils/vinegars). Here are a few: Grilled Halibut with Basil Orange Marinade, Grilled Steak with Garlic Smashed Potatoes, Pork Tenderloin with Molasses, Bacon, and Porcini Vinaigrette, Roasted Salmon with Green Beans and Citrus Vinaigrette, and Pickled Shrimp and Vegetable Salad. (Long titles!) Those are the recipes both of us might like; there are a lot of meatless dishes I’d like to try, like a recipe for white beans and pasta, pesto pizza, roasted polenta, and pumpkin ravioli. He includes an interesting recipe for pineapple upside down cake and a peach and boysenberry cobbler.

I choose to make Pasta with Tomato Vinaigrette and Spiedini of Prawns with Pancetta and Oregano Dressing. I’ll need both oregano and basil oils for those two recipes. For our salads, I’ll make a vinaigrette using a flavored vinegar – my own recipe, I’ll share it – and round out the meal with a loaf of my no-knead bread.

(I am not going to scan in or copy any of Chiarello’s recipes because of copyright issues. Michael Chiarello is an active chef, author, and entrepeneur. I’ll send you to his website instead, and let you know that I highly recommend this book and his methods of cooking.)

I check my pantry to make sure I have plenty of olive oil and good vinegar. At the grocery store, I look for fresh basil, oregano, and tarragon, as well as shrimp and pancetta. (My goal for this spring is to plant at least one herb and learn how to cultivate my own. I have a long history of loss-of-interest in gardens.) Pancetta is a type of Italian bacon. The only pancetta I’ve used before was thick and sold pre-packaged. At Whole Foods, I find pancetta at the deli counter. They slice it very thin, like prosciutto. It is rippled with meat and fat. I can hardly wait to try it.

I settle into my kitchen and turn on the music. Gathering my ingredients, I take each herb out of its packet and enjoy the aroma. How different fresh herbs are from dried!

Since I’ve cited my source, I think it’s fair to overview Chiarello’s techniques. Below are my interpretations of his instructions for herb-flavored oils and vinegars. (And a photo of my way of marking my place in his cookbook.)

bookmarksHerb oil: Chop up a half cup of an herb, then put it in a pan with a cup of olive oil. Heat the mixture until it starts to sizzle. It only takes a couple minutes. Then, strain (I used a chinois) and the oil is ready to use, or to store in the refrigerator.

My oil in the cruet and some oregano:

cruet and oreganoStraining the heated oil-herb mixture through a chinois:

straining through a chinoisIf you like your oils to be less murky, you can strain them through coffee filters. A regular strainer, and maybe cheesecloth, would also work.

Herb vinegar: Chop up a cup of an herb and put it in a cup of vinegar. Chiarello recommends champagne vinegar, because it has an acidity of 6% compared to 5% for plain white vinegar. Process the mixture in a blender or mini-processor, then strain. It’s fun to watch the freshly made herb vinegar slowly change in color as the pigments extracted from the herb oxidize.

If you just try these two simple procedures, you will have two great tools in your cooking arsenal. Chiarello expands to variations on methods and the use of many types of spices and peppers in his oils and vinegars. If you are intrigued, find a copy of one of his books, or check online.

Here are three oils that I made: oregano, basil, and annatto seed.

herb oilsThe annatto seed oil is a remnant of my last cooking blog entry. The day I made the Mexican seviche and tortilla ball soup meal, I tried grinding a few annatto seeds. Then I read the annatto seed package: It suggested heating the seeds in oil until they sizzled, then straining the oil. So I did it – and note the method is the same as Chiarello’s. The annatto seed oil is richly red, staining everything it touches. It smells earthy and tastes just a bit hot.

annatto seedsstraining annatto seed oilNow to use my oils in the recipes. Pasta with Tomato Vinaigrette is pretty simple. You mix together peeled, seeded, chopped fresh tomatoes, shallots, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, basil oil, and salt and let it rest at room temperature for about a half hour. While it rests, cook some pasta until al dente. Then mix it with freshly grated cheese (like Parmesan) and toss it with the vinaigrette.

The Spiedini of Prawns with Pancetta and Oregano Dressing takes a bit more time to prepare. The prawns are individually wrapped with a “slice” of pancetta threaded onto a wooden skewer. My pancetta was round in shape, and really gooey with fat. I just kind of worked some around the shrimps and threaded them snugged tightly on the skewers. The vinaigrette is prepared from garlic cooked in hot oil until quite brown and then sliced thinly, vinegar, oregano oil, green onions, and red peppers. Then, I grilled the shrimps about 5 minutes total and added them to the vinaigrette.

Here are the two vinaigrettes, some of the browned garlic cloves, the wrapped shrimp (before cooking), and the tarragon vinegar that I made for my salad dressing: oils and vinegars prepAnd here are the two finished dishes, the Pasta with Tomato Vinaigrette on the left, and the Spiedini of Prawns with Pancetta and Oregano Dressing on the right.

oils and vinegars mealAlong with bread and a salad, this meal was a hit, one of the best Saturday-night dinners that I have ever made. The flavors were bright, the shrimp cooked to perfection beneath the tasty pancetta.

Because I am not giving you the exact pasta and shrimp recipes (copyright issues), I will instead share my own recipe for a vinaigrette salad dressing. I learned the basic proportions and how to whisk the ingredients together to make the perfect emulsion in the “Sophisticated Sauces” cooking class that I took at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder.

Salad Dressing Vinaigrette PLF
makes enough dressing for 4-8 salads, depending on tastes

Here is how I make a vinaigrette for a salad. I experiment with different types of vinegars (rice wine, champagne, balsamic, red wine, homemade flavored vinegars) or citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange) and different types of oils (extra virgin olive, canola, walnut, grapeseed, homemade flavored oils). If you don’t like shallots or garlic, leave them out. What is important is the amounts of vinegar(s), mustard, and oil, and the constant whisking as you slowly add the oil. This recipe can be doubled.

  • 3 tablespoons of a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (Dijon or your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon very finely diced shallots (or onion)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about a tablespoon of fresh herbs: thyme, basil, parsley, etc.
  • 9-12 tablespoons oil (olive oil or a mixture of olive oil and a lighter oil like canola oil)

I usually chop the shallots, garlic, and herbs together until they are not quite a paste. Put the vinegar/lemon juice, honey, mustard, and shallot-herb mixture in a large bowl (yes, a large bowl).

Have your oil measured out in a pourable measuring cup (9 tablespoons is a little over half a cup, 12 tablespoons is 3/4 cup).

Use a big wire whisk to whisk together the mixture in the big bowl. Keep whisking while you very slowly pour in the oil. Do this drop-by-drop at first! After you have added a couple tablespoons, you can add it in a thin stream. Keep whisking!

After you have added the 9 tablespoons of oil, taste the dressing by dipping a piece of lettuce or a raw vegetable into it. (This is better than tasting with a spoon.) If it is too tart, whisk in more oil. If it needs salt or another seasoning, add it now. If it is too oily, you can whisk in a little vinegar or lemon juice.

This vinaigrette will keep emulsified for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

250 Cookbooks: The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking

Cookbook #57: The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking. Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz. The Condé Nast Publications, Inc., US, 1967.

Complete Book of Mexican CookingI bought this paperback cookbook for myself, probably used. Chronologically, this book was published between the other two Mexican cookbooks that I have covered in this blog: Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking (1958) and Sunset’s Mexican Cookbook (1972). I think I bought it at a used book store sometime in the 70s.

I was quite worn out after that long 1913 cookbook post, and wanted a quick and easy cookbook to discuss. And I wanted Mexican food. So I took The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking off the shelf and flipped through to find an easy casserole.

And then I got caught up in the author’s story and a plethora of interesting recipes.

From the forward:

“The Mexican kitchen is an exciting one, but it is not easy to discover, even at firsthand. For the most part, the señoras I met socially didn’t cook, and cooks don’t write down their recipes. There is not a large literature available; and when I first went to Mexico soon after my marriage, my own situation was further complicated by my not knowing any Spanish.”

“A decade ago Mexican women, not as liberated as they are now, were more dependent on servants; and no one took my attempts to learn the local cuisine seriously.The fact that I cooked at all was frowned on, until my cook-cum-maid reported to my mother-in-law that I was, after all, a respectable ama de casa (Spanish-elegant for housewife). She said I couldn’t really cook; I only pretended to be able to; that I looked everything up in a book, and what real cook would do that?”

I was hooked. I read the rest of the 6-page forward and went on to the introduction. Elisabeth (first name of the author: I feel like I know her now!) recounts how the native cuisine of the Aztecs brought foods then unknown outside the Americas: chocolate, vanilla, corn, chiles, peanuts, tomatoes, avocados, squash, beans, sweet potatoes, pineapple, and papaya. I learned this earlier from Elena’s cookbook, but I still can’t get over the fact that chocolate and vanilla and corn were not known by Europeans until the discovery of the Americas. I sure am glad I was born when I was.

The chapters of the book are: The Corn Kitchen, Soups, Sauces, Eggs, Fish, Poultry, Meats, Vegetables, Salads, Desserts, and Drinks. Each chapter has an introduction; this is a personal and friendly book. I do like the recipes: fresh ingredients and meals made from scratch. Even though the book was published over 45 years ago, I can still use most of the recipes “as is”. They aren’t weird, is what I am saying. They are useful.

I was looking for a mid-week meal. I sort of wanted a very simple Mexican casserole, with hamburger. But I came to a recipe for seviche, and that got me started on a bigger plan. We last had seviche (or ceviche) at The Fork in Lyons. They put it in tiny taco shells. I want to make seviche and put in on small tortillas and then . . . what to go with it? I found a recipe in this book for tortilla ball soup that uses stale tortillas: what a great idea! I decide to round out the meal with a Mexican-flare salad on each plate.

What is seviche? It’s raw fish “cooked” in an acidic liquid. As a chemist, this has always intrigued me. I haven’t made this delicate and tasty treat in years. The recipe includes a salsa for the seviche, and I have all of the ingredients on hand.

The Fork’s appetizer inspired me to make my own mini-tortillas to go with the seviche. I haven’t made my own tortillas in years. Can I find my old tortilla press? Clomping down the basement stairs, I rummage in the kitchen stuff I store there. Can I find it . . . yes! Now, how do I use it, where is my recipe?

This is where being a pack rat really comes in handy. I am the database queen. When I first discovered Filemaker at work way back in the 80s, I felt databases were created just for me. After I entered all of the chemicals at work in Filemaker, I got a copy for home and used it to enter all of my clipped recipes and instructions on one of my early Macs.

And so I was able to open my recipe database and search for “tortilla press” and find that the instruction book that came with it is stored in a manilla folder labeled “instructions” upstairs in a certain file box. Yay! (Sometimes it is good to be a little obsessive.)

Here is Elisabeth Oritz’s recipe for seviche:

Seviche RecipeSeviche RecipeSee how she introduces the recipe with a personal note? That’s one reason I like the cookbook. Limes are called lemons (limones), lima is the name for a lime but they still call one a limón. (We ran into this same issue in Togo last January; if you ask for a lime, they will inevitably give you a lemon.)

I will use mahi mahi because I have some in my freezer. I have a fresh jalapeño, so will substitute it for canned ones. Cilantro: the salsa begs for cilantro! I will serve it piled on the small homemade tortillas, and instead of mixing the seviche and salsa, I will spoon a little of each on the tortillas.

Below is the plated meal: Showing you why I went to all the work!

Seviche on tiny tortillas with guacamole and tortilla ball soup and salad

Seviche on tiny tortillas with guacamole and tortilla ball soup and salad.

Seviche with Salsa on Tiny Tortillas
this recipe will probably serve 2-4 as appetizers


  • 1/4 pound fish, such as sole, cod, or mahi mahi
  • juice of 2 limes


  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 smallish onion, chopped very fine
  • jalapeños, chopped fine, to taste; I used half of a fresh one finely chopped
  • optional: other chopped peppers to taste, such as pablanos or anaheims, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • scant tablespoon white vinegar
  • lime juice to taste (one or two limes)
  • a few sprigs each of parsley and cilantro, finely chopped
  • oregano (dried), salt and pepper to taste

Tiny tortillas

  • 1 cup masa
  • 5/8 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the seviche, chop the fish into small julienne and cover with the juice of 2 limes in a small non-metallic bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Then, drain (and toss) the juice. (Here I disagree with the author’s recipe: I think the lime juice off the fish is too fishy tasting to add to the salsa. Also, I want to use the salsa for other purposes, not just with the seviche.)

Prepare a salsa with the tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, fresh lime juice, vinegar, herbs, and olive oil. Chop the onions and peppers quite fine. This salsa will top the very delicate seviche, and I think it’s worth the extra effort to make a finely-chopped salsa in this case.

chopped onions and peppersHere is the salsa and the seviche. Yes, I made guacamole too.

sevicheFor the tortillas, mix the masa, water, and salt to form a dough that will just hold together. Let it rest 15 minutes to an hour.

masa doughCut pieces of wax paper in squares that cover the inside of the tortilla press: two squares will make two tortillas. (Parchment does not work – I tried it.) Place a piece of wax paper on one face of the tortilla press, then add a small ball of dough.

tortillasCover the dough with another piece of wax paper.

tortillasClose the press and apply pressure for a couple seconds.

tortillastortillasOpen, and carefully remove the papers. You will have to experiment a bit with the amount of dough to make a small tortilla (about 3-inch diameter). Also, if the dough sticks too much to the paper, add a bit of masa flour to the dough; if it won’t make a ball at all, add a bit more water to the dough. You can re-use each piece of wax paper once by putting the used side against the press for a second pressing.

Carefully transfer each pressed tortilla onto a large piece of parchment. If you don’t plan to cook these immediately, cover with plastic wrap.

tortillasTo cook, put an inch or so of vegetable oil in a heavy pan. Heat over high heat until it pops and sizzles when you carefully toss in a drop of water. Turn down just under “high”, then carefully transfer the pressed tortilla dough into the oil. You can cook a couple at a time because they are so small.

tortillasFry each until golden brown, then transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.

tortillas(I re-use the oil that I use to fry store-bought or homemade tortillas. I pour the cooled oil into a jar, cover it, and store in the refrigerator.)

To assemble, place a teaspoon of seviche on each tortilla, then top with a teaspoon of salsa. I added some guacamole too – just couldn’t resist!

My photo is above, where the recipe starts. I broke tradition and showed you the results first!

I made a salad (lettuce, olives, cheese, peppers) some Tortilla Ball Soup to go with the seviche. Below is the author’s version of this soup; I made many changes.

Tortilla Ball Soup RecipePreparing this soup should have been straightforward, since I have stale tortillas and most of the other ingredients. But Epazote, what’s that? I don’t have any and have no idea what flavor it has. A google search revealed that I might be able to find it fresh in ethnic markets, or dried versions online. But fresh is recommended. So I ventured out to Longmont and found a Mexican store on Main Street:

Mexican StoreThe store was a wonder. Fresh butcher-served meats, including tripe and lots of sausages as well as pork and chicken; shelves and baskets of spices and chiles; canned goods; cleaning items; cell phones; lots of fresh produce. I looked through both the spices and the fresh produce, but could not find epazote. I did find limones!

limonesI gave up and asked the store clerk, trying to say the word and then spelling it. “Epazote, yes, we usually have it”, she said, carefully pronouncing it “ep a szot ee”. But alas, none today, I should come back tomorrow. I was almost jumping up and down, excited that soon I’ll be able to taste this exotic (to me) herb.

My moseying around the store filled my basket with quite a bit of items. Chorizo, because this Mexican sausage is made differently by every store that produces it. Limones, because one can never have enough. A huge bag of oregano for only $1.29 – no way do I need this much, but, oh well! The annato seeds? Don’t know what I am going to do with them, but I have used anchiote paste made from annatos for carnitas. A big cheap bag of sesame seeds. A zucchini-like squash. And limes and peppers.

purchasesAfter my adventure, back home and to making Tortilla Ball Soup. I made a ton of changes to the printed recipe. I cut the amounts by a quarter, and still had way too much dough. It was hard to cut “1 egg and 2 egg yolks” by a quarter, and the one-egg that I added made the dough too sloppy. I suggest using cheap yellow corn tortillas, since the type I used did not soak up the milk very well: my food processor never did get the tortillas into a fine mush.

tortilla ball doughHere is the dough after the addition of some egg and a little masa. I used cilantro for the missing epazote.

tortilla ball doughI made lots of additions to the basic beef broth/tomato puree specified in the cookbook: pinto beans and peppers (bells and hot peppers) and more onions and garlic and a little tomato and some cooked chorizo. I also added dried oregano and plenty of cilantro. After the broth and soup ingredients were hot, I carefully dropped in my sort of messy tortilla ball dough. Some cooked in balls, some sort of dissolved into the soup. Below is the soup bubbling on the stove.

tortilla ball soupThis recipe needs work, but it has potential!

As to the whole meal, it was perfect. Soup, salad, and seviche, yum.





250 Cookbooks: Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners

Cookbook #56: Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners, A Book of Recipes. Mrs. Elizabeth O. Hiller. The N. K. Fairbank Company, Chicago, NY, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Montreal, 1913.

Fifty-Two Sunday DinnersNote the publication date: 1913!  This is my third-oldest cookbook – 101 years old! I store this one on a shelf above my main collection, with other cookbooks of very special interest.

I entered this book in my database as originating from “Mother’s collection”. I do not remember seeing this book at our childhood home, and she did not write notes in it. So I do not know its history. Was it one of Grandma Burch’s cookbooks? My mother’s mother was a great cook. Especially desserts: “I only eat dinner to get dessert!”


Grandma (center) and Grandpa Burch with one of her own Sunday dinners. (And wearing a dress she made.)

The price is printed on the back of the title page:

priceI was curious as to how $1 would translate into today’s dollars. WestEgg tells me that what cost $1 in 1913 would have cost $22.88 in 2012.

This cookbook doesn’t look well-used. There are some food marks, but few pencil markings. A couple neatly-clipped recipes are tucked between pages. My guess is that my grandmother clipped these recipes: she was very neat. My mother was more like me, a messy recipe clipper. Neither of us could tie a ribbon bow, either, while her mother was an expert at bow tying. She was also a talented seamstress, sewing most of her own clothes. I remember that her hemming stitches were small and neat. Mother and I made bigger stitches, a little less neat. Ah, memories.

Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners is a charming artifact, a bit of history, a peek inside American kitchens a hundred years ago.

“The title of ’52 Sunday Dinners’ has been given the book because Sunday dinners as a rule are a little more elaborate than the other dinners of the week, but from these menus may be gleaned helpful hints for daily use.”

This has changed a bit since my childhood: a big sit-down Sunday dinner is less prevalent. But what has not changed is the goal to eat healthy food:

“The eternal feminine question is, ‘What shall we have for dinner to-day?’ It is not always the easiest thing in the world to think of a seasonable menu, nor to determine just the right combination that will furnish a meal appetizing and well-balanced in food values. Furthermore, both the expense and the amount of work entailed in preparation must be considered. This Cook Book is especially designed to meet just that pressing daily need of the housewife.”

Of course I cringe at “the eternal feminine question” clause, but it serves to remind me once again: “we’ve come a long ways, ladies”.

I was quite surprised to find that this entire book is online, part of the Gutenberg project. It’s copyright-free, so I can copy as much as I like into this blog. And you can read this book right now and see what you think of it.

The cookbook is organized as chapters for each month of the year. Each chapter begins with a quote. These quotes speaks to me:

“Let hunger move thy appetite,
And not savory sauces. –Shakespeare.”

“Hunger is the best seasoning for meat,
And thirst for drink. –Cicero.”

That’s why my resolution for 2014 is to eat something each day that makes me immediately want another bite. There is a hidden meaning in my resolution: If I’m hungry, I sense the flavor in even the healthiest of foods, and something very sweet tastes so bright it bursts with flavor. So, stay hungry.

I also like this quote:

“If you are an artist in the kitchen, you will always be esteemed. –Elizabeth in Her German Garden.”

I think this would have been a quite useful cookbook back in its day. It includes a good variety of recipes, and interesting menu suggestions. Basic cooking techniques are not covered; it was written for the home cook who already had a good grasp of the basics. This was the era before canned soups, biscuit mixes, boxed frostings, packaged hamburger, boneless chicken breasts . . . food processors and microwave ovens. Food preparation for these Sunday dinners would have taken the housewife hours in the kitchen.

Mrs. Elizabeth O. Hiller (the author) highly touts the benefits of a product called Cottolene.

“In the interest of health and economy a number of the recipes suggest the use of Cottolene—a frying and shortening medium of unquestioned purity—in place of butter or lard. Cottolene is a vegetable shortening, pure in source and manufactured amid cleanly favorable surroundings. It is no new, untried experiment, having been used by domestic science experts and thousands of housewives for nearly twenty years; to them Cottolene for shortening and frying is ‘equal to butter at half the price, better and more healthful than lard—and more economical than either.'”

“There isn’t an ounce of hog fat in Cottolene, and from cottonfield to kitchen human hands never touch the product.”

Cottolene was a brand of shortening made of beef tallow and cottonseed oil. (Wikipedia, accessed 2014.) It was popular until the mid-twentieth century – about the time shortenings like Spry came to American markets.

I was charmed by the menus. Not quite charmed enough to make a full dinner from one, though. I chose the menu for the second Sunday of March, the week I began this blog entry. Below is the menu and associated recipes. Note the faint handwritten note: “½ of ¾ = 3/8”.

menuonions with creamI decide to make variations of two of the above recipes: the chicken stew with dumplings and the onions with cream.

I am not about to dress, clean and cut up a “year old chicken”, nor cook it for several hours. My choice is to start with boneless chicken thighs and cook for about an hour. I will add vegetables to the stew, since that is part of “healthy food” lore in the US today. I have a great recipe for chicken and dumplings that I developed myself, and will share it with you (below).

I will make some onions with cream; they sound easy and reminiscent of the creamed onions I remember from the 50s. Stewed dried corn? No, don’t think I’ll try that, or the watercress and egg salad. I’d love to make the rhubarb pie, but, too many calories.

Onions with Cream
variable servings

  • pearl onions, about 6-8 per person
  • cream (less than a half cup, depending on how many you are serving)

Cut off the tip of each onion, the side opposite the root end. Put in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and cool. Hold the onion by the root end and squeeze until the onion pops out. Cut off the root end and they are ready to cook.

Boil the peeled onions in salted water for 20 minutes. Drain, then add enough cream to coat them. Grind some pepper over them, and they are ready to serve.

Here are the little pearl onions. I have cut off the tips of the growing end, leaving the root end intact.

onionsAfter a 2-minute boil, you can squeeze the onion out of its skin:

peeling pearl onionsHere they are, after a 20-minute boil, drained of water and lightly coated with cream:
onions with creamI liked these. I put them atop my serving of chicken and dumplings (below). Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners also has a recipe for more traditional creamed onions, served in a more traditional white sauce. I chose this recipe because I had a bit of heavy cream in the refrigerator that I wanted to use up. High in fat and calories, but I just used a bit, and it really brightened the flavor of the pearl onions.

Here is my promised recipe for chicken and dumplings. This recipe is a work-in-progress, as I keep making tiny changes each time I make it.The chicken has no bones, the sauce is thick and flavorful, and the dumplings are soft and a tiny bit gooey.

Chicken and Dumplings PLF
serves 2 or 3

Any covered pot that can go on the stove top will work for this recipe. I always choose an oval Le Creuset, because it allows for lots of dumpling space.

For the stew:

  • one half of a medium onion, chopped (about a half-cup)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • leeks (optional; one leek would be sufficient)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 9 oz. chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 3 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • chopped parsley (about a half-cup)
  • 1/2 cup peas


  • 1  cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk

In the pot, cook the onions, celery, and leeks in a little olive oil until they soften. Add the garlic and stir a minute or two, then add the 2 tablespoons of flour and stir constantly for a couple minutes. Slowly stir in a cup of chicken stock (or water), until all the flour is incorporated into the liquid.

Add the chicken, carrots, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and salt and pepper. Add more stock or water until the vegetables and chicken are all immersed. Simmer about an hour, lightly covered, until the vegetables are tender. Check occasionally; add more broth/water if the mixture is getting too thick.

Just before you add the dumplings, remove the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs, and add the peas and the parsley.

Drop the dumpling dough by tablespoonfuls (golf ball sized) onto the stew. Cover, set the heat low enough to maintain a gentle simmer, cook until dumplings are firm, 25-30 minutes.


ingredientsThe stew mixture, before the hour simmer:

stew before simmeringAfter simmering and adding the peas and parsley, just before adding the dumpling dough. At this point, the broth should be a little thick and covering the vegetables. Check the taste for salt and pepper. You can see my dumpling dough in the back: it is rather sticky.

just before adding dumplingsThe finished dish:

Chicken and Dumplings PLFThe aroma is heavenly (I got comments!) This version of my Chicken and Dumplings was wonderful. Homey, full of nutrients, low in fat, and delicious to boot. I might add less dumpling dough next time (my dining partner tolerates dumplings but doesn’t love them like I do). But as I said, this recipe is a work-in-progress.

No Cottolene in my dumplings! In fact, note that they are fat-free. Chicken and dumplings is different from a chicken pot pie. For a pot pie, I would cover the stew with pie crust or biscuits made with shortening or butter, and bake in the oven. The result would be a stew covered with a golden brown pastry, and it would look beautiful and taste very good, but be laden with a lot more calories. But I gotta say, my Chicken and Dumplings are so good, we (barely) miss the fat.

250 Cookbooks: Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 3

Cookbook #55: Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 3, Bea-Cas. Woman’s Day, Fawcett Publications, NY, 1968.

Encyclopedia of Cookery Vol. 3This is the third in a series of 12 food encyclopedia volumes. I discussed the first two volumes here: Volume 1 and Volume 2. I pick this volume from the shelf and settle into a cozy chair and start reading.

Catfish, a Mississippi Valley favorite, is the first entry. The oldest records for cauliflower date to the 6th century BC, from the area around the Mediterranean, near where we visited Turkey last spring. Cheese was made and eaten in Biblical times, and when the Pilgrims set sail for the new continent, they took round Dutch cheeses with them. This encyclopedia includes a useful chart of different cheeses and a “Cheese Cook Book” with recipes ranging from soups with cheese to creamy macaroni and cheese to Swiss fondue to desserts.

Cheesecakes. I am halfway through a good article on the history of cheesecakes when I think to look back to see who wrote it: James A. Beard! I have two of his cookbooks and have always enjoyed his writing (Beard on Bread was my 5th entry in this series). The article begins:

“If you’re as fond of cheesecake as I am, you might like to join me in honoring its inventor. It seems to me that anyone who could think up such a fantastically wonderful concoction deserves a statue in his memory. The only difficulty in memorializing cheesecake’s originator is that no one has the faintest idea who he, or she, was. It might have been an ancient Greek, for they made cheesecakes of a simple kind.

Cheesecake isn’t at all new. Its’ a rediscovery. When I was twenty years younger, cheesecake wasn’t so widely known as it is today, and the art of making it was pretty much of a specialty in restaurants serving German, Austria, or French cuisine. Nowadays, it has grown so popular that it rivals apple pie as an American favorite.”

And I come to the entry for “chef”. “In French, the word means ‘chief’, but in both French and English it has become a culinary term for a superior male cook, head of his kitchen.” The article continues with the emphasis on “he” and discusses several famous male chefs. It ends with “As for trying to explain why great, creative cooks have practically always been men and not women, prudence dictates an unbreakable silence.”

That was 1968. We’ve come a long way, ladies!!

On to cherries (I learn the origin of maraschino cherries), chicken (a section called a “Chicken Cookbook”), and Chinese food. My mother marked several recipes, and I found some recipes I’d like to try in the Chinese section.

Chocolate and Christmas cookbooks, citrus and clams, coconut and coffee. Cookies! The section on corn reminded me that I should make double corn sticks in my cast-iron corn stick pan. Crabs and cranberries. The final entry is crême brûlée.

I marked several sections and recipes for my personal notes.

My mother’s note of “don’t panic!” on the black bottom pie recipe made me smile:

Black Bottom PieI remember this pie from childhood, so I checked my recipe index card box. Yes, I was right! When I moved out from my childhood home, this is one of the recipes I copied and took with me. It is slightly different from the above recipe, so my guess is that Mother included improvements in her version.

For this blog, I decide to try a dessert cake using sour cherries. Why? I bought a jar from Whole Foods quite a few months ago (forget why) and they need to be used.

Tart CherriesHere is the scan of the recipe for Cherry Upside-Down Cake:

Cherry Upside Down CakeCherry Upside Down CakeThis recipe is a bit high in calories, but we usually treat ourselves to something special on Saturday nights. I recall that sour/tart cherries are supposed to be good for you. I googled and found this 2013 article in Medical Daily that touts tart (sour) cherries as “America’s super food”, reporting that they are beneficial for: arthritis, blood sugar levels, lowering risk of heart disease and colon cancer, and improving memory. And, they help you get a good night’s sleep!

I made a few changes in the recipe as I went along. I was taking the photo of the jar of cherries and the bottle of vanilla that my daughter-in-law brought me from Mexico caught my eye:

vanillaHmmm, I think I’ll add some vanilla to the batter! And then I thought of cinnamon – yes, I’ll add cinnamon too. For the cherry sauce, I decided to reduce the cherry juice before I added the sugar and cornstarch. This should deepen both the flavor and the color of the sauce.

The following is my version of Cherry Upside-Down Cake.

Cherry Upside-Down Cake
serves 6, generously

  • 3/4 cup butter, divided (1/4 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 16 ounces water-packed pitted red sour (tart) cherries
  • lemon rind, grated (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Cherry Sauce

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a 9-inch square baking pan. (I used a metal pan and did this on the stove top; you could use a glass pan and melt the butter in it in a microwave oven.) Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in the pan.

Drain the cherries, saving the juice for the sauce. Spoon the cherries evenly over the brown sugar, then top with the lemon rind and cinnamon.

Cream the 1/2 cup butter, gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, then add these dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Spread the batter on the cherries. (The batter is thick; I put big dollops of batter on the cherries and used my fingers to spread the batter to cover the cherries.)

Bake at 375˚ for 30 minutes. Top with Cherry Sauce.

Cherry Sauce

  • 3/4 cup reserved cherry juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Boil the cherry juice until the volume is reduced by about a third and the color is a rich red. Cool. Mix the sugar and cornstarch, then add this mixture to the reduced cherry juice. Put back on the stove and heat until it boils and thickens.

Here are the cherries in the pan:

cherries in panThe cake, baked:

baked cakeAnd our one-sixth portions (they are big!):

Cherry Upside-Down CakeYum yum yum! This dessert is way too good. The tart and flavorful cherries under the brown sugar and cinnamon and vanilla-laced cake – perfect. A homey dessert that I would love to have a lot if it weren’t for the calories.

I slept really well after eating this dessert, though! Cherries, the perfect sleep aid.