250 Cookbooks: Bake It Easy Bake-Off Cook Book

Cookbook #67: Bake It Easy Bake-Off Cook Book, 100 winning recipes from Bake-Off® 24. Pillsbury, 1973.

Bake-Off 24 CookbookYet another Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook. So far I’ve done four Bake-off years: 1964 (Cookbook #4) and 1959 (Cookbook #10), 1963 (Cookbook #27), and 1966 (Cookbook #61). I refer you to the 1964 blog post for a more thorough discussion of these booklets. I had to guess at the publication date for this one: I have the silver (25th) anniversary cook-off booklet published in 1974, and this one is the 24th, so I figure it was published in 1973. There is a table in this book listing the winners of the 1949-1973 Bake-Offs. Inflation note: this one cost 89¢.

Was this my mother’s? I’m not sure. Neither of us wrote in it.

This 1973 cookbook reflects the influence of the 60s, when recently introduced packaged mixes were the rage, and also the 70s, when hippies and “health food” nuts like me were cooking with whole grains and such. Roughly a third of the recipes in this bake-off cookbook are from scratch (and call for “healthy” ingredients), the rest use hot roll mix, biscuit mix, crescent rolls, or frosting and cake mixes. The oddest recipe is this one for cookies: 1 package Pillsbury Coconut Pecan Frosting mix, 2 cups peanut butter, 3 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1 cup sugar; mix and drop onto cookie sheets to bake.

I was able to find several good recipes in this cookbook. The recipes I like (and noted for future reference) call for ingredients like bananas, apples, carrots, bran (Crunchy Bran Cornbread), whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and yams (Golden Yam Drop Cookies!). I decided to try: Apple-Carrot Quick Bread.

Apple Carrot BreadAren’t there just tons of recipes for carrot bread, and apple bread? Always with slight variations. I have my favorites, but sometimes it’s fun to try something a little different. Grated apple in a bread gives a different texture than, say, applesauce or apple chunks. Lemon extract? I don’t keep that around, so I’ll use grated lemon peel (lemon zest). I decide to use coconut (not nuts), and I’ll use regular shredded (angel flake) coconut rather than the big coconut slices that I like for granola. I am going to add vanilla, since I like it a lot. But I’ll hold off on my usual cinnamon and nutmeg, sometimes it’s nice to have a change in spices.

I will use butter in this recipe; if you want to make this “healthier”, use a vegetable oil. You could also use whole wheat pastry flour to boost nutrition and fiber. “Whatever you like”.

Apple-Carrot Quick Bread

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, shredded apples (I used 2 granny smiths)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut (you can used chopped nuts instead)

Blend the butter, eggs, and sugar using an electric mixer. Mix in  the apples, carrots, vanilla, and lemon zest.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the blended mixture and mix only until just blended. Add the coconut and mix briefly.

Grease an 8×4-inch loaf pan on the bottom only. Pour in the batter and bake at 350˚ for 50-60 minutes.

Note: at my 5300 foot altitude, I reduced the baking powder and baking soda to 7/8 teaspoon each, and baked at 365˚ for 50 minutes.


Yum! This bread is so good. I wanted more, more! I’m glad I used lemon zest, and grated apples. I used it for a morning breakfast bread: I like to think that calories in the morning are worked off, so sometimes I splurge a bit. And this bread packs a few nutrients in it. Bottom line: it tastes great!

Apple Carrot Bread

250 Cookbooks: Lyons Elementary Cookbook

Cookbook #66: Lyons Elementary Cookbook. Lyons Elementary PTA, Lyons, Colorado, 1989-90.

Lyons Elementary CookbookLyons. My community. We have lived in unincorporated Lyons since 1981. Both of my kids went through grades 1-12 in Lyons, first at Lyons Elementary and then at Lyons Middle-Senior High School. The Lyons Elementary Cookbook was put together by parents and teachers at the elementary school when my son was a student there. And yes! I contributed recipes.

So far, I’ve covered two other community cookbooks, one from my sister and one from my mother-in-law. I enjoy them as a reflection of how people really cook in their homes as they raise their kids.

Turning the pages of the 1989-90 Lyons Elementary Cookbook takes me back to the sweet days when my kids were young, and all those years in Lyons schools. I recognize so many of the names at the bottom of the recipes! Lyons schools are small, I think there were less than 300 students at the middle-senior school when my kids attended. A lot of the families still live here; our town is like that.

So how did we cook in our homes in the 80s? We were busy, so the recipes in this cookbook do not require a lot of time to cook. Ingredient choices reflect both our hippie influences (whole wheat flour, wheat germ, tofu all that) and our mom’s influences (canned soups, seasoning mixes, bisquick and all that). The result, lots of tasty, comforting main dishes. Lots of yummy cookies and quick breads and desserts. This little Lyons Elementary cookbook is a keeper for a lot of reasons!

I could have opened this cook book at random and chosen any of the recipes for this blog. (Well almost, not “Rattlesnake Stew”: Remove rattle, cut snake into small pieces. Add remaining ingredients, except rabbit . . . “) My choice is: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. A healthy-ish treat for me, on May 11, Mother’s Day 2014! And look, right above the muffin recipe is one of my own contributions:

Banana Choclate Chip MuffinsI still make Banana Blueberry Bread regularly (and should enter my latest version into this blog).

The Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe was contributed by Mindy Tallent, who along with her husband Sam now own the Stone Cup in Lyons. Ah, the Stone Cup! A lovely place to meet friends and enjoy wonderful coffee and sweet treats: “made from scratch using only organic and natural ingredients”. Just like the muffin recipe in this cookbook!

When the town flooded last September, the Stone Cup was just above the flood level, and Mindy went in early to open up. Soon stranded townspeople came until there was a crowd, and the Stone Cup opened its doors. Thank you Mindy and Sam, for being there for our community when it needed you the most, and for toughing it out through the long weeks when the town was evacuated and the roads closed. Everyone, if you are ever in Lyons, stop by the Stone Cup!

I plan to make these muffins pretty much as per the recipe. I don’t have oat bran, but I do have oat flour, so I’ll use that. I suggest putting a half-cup of oatmeal in a food processor if you don’t have oat flour or oat bran, or substitute with flour or even wheat bran. I think that “2 teaspoons of safflower oil” is just too little oil. There was a phase when we all tried to eliminate all fat from recipes; today I feel like we need a little fat in our diets. And more oil will give these a better texture. As to the directions to use “safflower” oil, well, opinions on the “best” oil to use changes with time; I say, use whatever you have in your cupboard. Chocolate chips – my current crave is for 60% cacao Ghiradelli’s chocolate chips. And if a few more chips than called for fall into the batter – well, too bad! These are for my Mother’s Day!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 12; downsized from the original recipe that made 18

  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (see my suggested substitutes, above)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lightly mashed bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (my addition!)
  • 1/3 cup honey (4 ounces; and I used local Colorado honey)
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (or more!)

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the bananas with the egg, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Add the honey and vanilla.

Mix wet and dry ingredients quickly, then stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips, being careful not to over mix. Spoon into lightly greased muffin tins or use paper baking cups.

Bake at 400˚ for 18-20 minutes. (Test with a toothpick for doneness.)


Yum! These are perfect. I made them the day before and we enjoyed them for breakfast.

Banana Chocolate Chip MuffinsMy only dilemma the next morning was whether or not to microwave them briefly before heating. Un-microwaved, you bite down on big crunchy chunks of chocolate. Microwaved, creamy chocolate oozes out. Hmm. Tried them both ways and still can’t decide which is best.

250 Cookbooks: The ABC of Casseroles

Cookbook #65: The ABC of Casseroles. Peter Pauper Press, Mount Vernon, NY, 1954.

ABC of CasserolesThe “ABC of Casseroles” belonged to my mother-in-law. I know this fact only because a phone number and address written in her handwriting is on the inside cover. Other than that and a few food stains on a couple pages, it looks unused.

That doesn’t mean that my husband didn’t endure a lot of casseroles from his mom’s kitchen! Although, it was often his older sisters who did the cooking, since his single-parent mom worked. Tuna fish concoctions are among his worst food memories. The other casseroles – he won’t even talk about. During our first years together, I learned to call a dish “hamburger baked with potatoes, vegetables and cheese” rather than “Easy Layered Casserole”. I had to teach him that casseroles can be good!

This cookbook exemplifies the bad class of 50s casseroles. The ABC of Casseroles claims no author other than “The Editor”. Here is the “To the reader” page:

“None of the recipes is complicated, or too difficult for the inexperienced cook. We have had her particularly in mind in assembling these recipes, since it is she, and not her older and more experienced sister, who usually holds down a job, and cooks too. Many of the dishes can be prepared the day before, and baked at the last minute. And many are quickies that can be both prepared and cooked in an hour’s time.”

I can’t figure out from that paragraph which sister has a job, the older or the younger? Guess the mom refuses to cook. Whatever.

Examples of recipes in this book are Kansas City Franks (hot dogs, canned tomatoes, catsup, frozen carrots and peas), Lamb and Lima Beans, Liver Casserole (bacon, liver, okra, lima beans, apples, “6 cubes apple jelly”), Noodles and Salami (noodles, salami, evaporated milk), and Ragout of Oxtail (oxtails, bacon, carrots, turnips, lima beans). Oddly enough, there is a recipe for Lobster a la Marseilles. Perhaps lobster was cheap in the 50s, or maybe it just wasn’t popular yet. The lobster in this recipe is cooked and taken out of the shell, chopped, and then baked with onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. All of the recipes are in alphabetical order by recipe title; hence the title, “ABC of Casseroles.” Kind of ties in with the sisters doing the cooking.

This cookbook is going into the recycle bin. But first, I must find a recipe I can cook for this blog. Since it will be a meal for me and my husband, I want it to taste good. Meaning, I will make a “few” changes to make it palatable for our  tastes.

The recipe I choose is “Turkey Bake”.

Turkey Bake RecipeDefinitely, the tongue is out! From there, I will substitute fresh red bell peppers for the pimentos and add mushrooms and olives (ingredients in one of my favorites, Chicken Casserole). I have frozen leftover turkey (Thanksgiving, 2013, it needs to be used up!) and actual homemade turkey stock. I will mix the bread crumbs into the noodles, as they will help to thicken the casserole. I do like that this recipe does not call for canned cream of chicken soup.

Let’s see if my Turkey Bake Casserole can be a hit.

Turkey Bake Casserole
serves 3-4

This casserole can be made a day ahead (I did!).

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 1/2 ounces medium noodles
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized onion, chopped (approximate)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/4 of a red (or green) bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a 4-ounce can of olives
  • chopped parsley to taste
  • about 5 large fresh mushrooms, sliced and dry-cooked a few minutes in a medium hot pan to get some of the water out of them
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, chopped
  • 1 cup stock (turkey, chicken, or use a bouillon cube dissolved in a cup of water)

Toast the bread crumbs in a 300˚ oven for 10 minutes, until they are lightly browned.

In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup of the toasted bread crumbs with the noodles, butter, cheese, onion, garlic, bell pepper, olives, and parsley. Combine the mushrooms with the turkey.

Put a third of the noodle mixture in a 1 1/2 or 2-quart casserole. Top wit half of the turkey and mushrooms. Repeat, ending with noodles. Pour turkey broth over all. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs on top of the casserole.

At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the casserole for a day.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350˚. Cover the casserole (foil or a lid) and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking another 10-15 minutes, until it is hot, bubbling, and brown.


This was good and tasty. I might make it again, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for an easy weeknight meal.

Here are (most of) the ingredients:

ingredientsLook at my nice fresh home-grown parsley! I decided to cook the mushrooms a bit so that they did not add a lot of moisture to the casserole. You could probably skip that step.

The noodles and vegetables look pretty:

ingredientsThere is probably no reason to layer the casserole as per the original directions, so if you prefer, just mix the 3/4 cup bread crumbs with the noodles and vegetables and turkey and cheese, put in a casserole, and add the turkey broth and top with the remaining bread crumbs.

It cooks up pretty:

Turkey Bake CasseroleIn 2014, I can now call a casserole a “casserole”. It took decades, but my husband now brightens up when I tell him I am making a casserole for dinner!

250 Cookbooks: Römertopf Cooking is Fun

Cookbook #64: Römertopf Cooking is Fun. Wendy Philipson, Eduard Bay, Ransbach, 1971.

Romertopf Cooking is FunI picked this book out of the stack of paperback cookbooks totally thinking it would be out of date and nearly useless. But no, it made me smile, and that in itself has value.

My sister gave me a Römertopf cooker back in the 70s. I did use it a few times, but I’m not sure if I ever used this particular cookbook or even how I got this cookbook. It is not marked with food stains or notes.

And now my big admission of guilt: I broke my Römertopf after I’d had it a couple years. I forget exactly how I broke it, whether it was temperature-shock or a physical drop. My husband glued it back together, but I never felt safe using it for cooking again. So it sat accusingly on the soffit in the kitchen for years and years. I finally tossed it during a kitchen cleaning some time back.

What is a Römertopf cooker? It’s a covered clay pot, one of several brands available. You use it, pre-soaked in water, in a hot oven, for braising meats, cooking fish and soups, and even desserts. Supposedly, it cooks especially well because the soaked pot releases steam as the food bakes and all the natural (and healthy) juices are kept in the finished meal.

Let’s compare clay pots to other braising methods. A slow cooker (crock pot) can be left all day, unattended, which is great. Drawbacks: you need to use a separate pan if you want to start with browned meats, and sometimes a crock pot overcooks everything. Any stove top covered pan is useful for braising, but it needs to be monitored. Covered, stove-top-to-oven cookware like Le Creusets allow you to brown meats directly in the pot, then you can leave then unattended in the oven for several hours. Le Creusets are especially heavy and sturdy. (You can drop them!)

Now we come to clay pots. Clay pots require a soaking in water before use. You cannot set them on a hot stove top to pre-brown meats. You cannot add cold liquids during the cooking process or the pot will break. They are fragile, sensitive both to temperature and physical shock. They are difficult to get clean. (Le Creusets are really easy to clean.)

So why use a clay cooker? This cookbook and even today’s online resources claim that a clay cooker imparts excellent flavor and tenderness to a meal, require no added fat, and keep in all the nutrients. So I will give mine a try.

Oh – yes, I do again have a clay pot cooker – so I am able to cook a meal from this cookbook. I got it for baking no-knead bread loaves. It is a different brand: Schlemmer Topf. The inside of the bottom section is glazed, I think for easier cleaning. Anyway, it’s a clay pot, and I’ll cook something in it for this blog.

clay potA little bit about this cookbook
skip to the recipe if this bores you!

This book is the English adaptation of the original German “Braten und Schmoren im Römertopf”. Wendy Philipson completely reworked and extended the German version. She is from England, and spent time in Germany teaching English at the University of Munich.

Clay pot cooking dates back thousands of years, to the Romans and even before to “our most primitive ancestors, who lived from the fruits of the hunt, cooked the meat of the animals they had killed in simple clay containers placed in the glowing embers of their fires.” Why cook in a clay pot today? Wendy gives several reasons. For one, very little liquid needs to be added, so the natural juices and the full “flavour” and taste and vitamins are retained. “The aroma and taste of food prepared in this way is rich and nutritious.” Secondly, no fat needs to be added to a dish, great for those on a diet for slimming or health reasons. “This has been officially verified by the Institute of Domestic Science in Munich – and the Bay-Römertopf is the only casserole of its kind which has been subjected to these tests.” Third, “cooking in a Römertopf is really child’s play. ‘Overdone’ and ‘burnt’ are words which are completely unknown in the Römertopf kitchen. Once a dish is in the oven nothing can go wrong.”

Finally. the Romertopf is “attractive as well as useful. Nowadays, with modern technical developments, not only in outer space but also in the kitchen, the housewife is grateful for every technical improvement – from the high-speed pressure cooker to the fully automatic oven. Yet sometimes we think wistfully that with all this progress the cosiness of the old-fashioned kitchen is being lost. The Römertopf – much to our delight – combines the best of both worlds.”

(Note the publication date: 1971. Crock pot cookery came to the American kitchen in the early 70s, as per my research for my first slow-cooker cookbook blog post.)

Clay pot basics: Soak the clay pot and the lid for at least 10 minutes before use, put into a cold oven and then heat the oven slowly; never add cold liquids during the cooking process; uncover during the last 10 minutes or so to brown the meat; take out of the oven and set on a folded towel to prevent temperature shock. Clean in hot water with a brush, do not use harsh cleaners, and learn to accept that you will not get it looking sparkly clean.

Basically, in my opinion, using a clay baker will kind of a pain. But, will using the clay pot be worth the trouble? Will it taste fantastic? Will I regain the cosiness of an old-fashioned kitchen?

The recipe

I chose to cook “Roman Pot Beef”. Like many of the entries in this cookbook, the recipe is just sketched out. The majority of recipes are for meats (beef, veal, pork, mutton and lamb, game, and poultry). Fish and soups are also included. Desserts are given a few pages, with the caution “not for slimmers!”. (As I said, this book makes me smile.)

I checked online, and the current Römertopf website has content quite similar to my 1971 Römertopf Cooking is Fun cookbook. (It’s written in English, with a heavy German accent.) The recipe for “Braised Joint of Beef” reads a lot like the “Roman Pot Beef recipe in my cookbook:

Roman Pot BeefRoman Pot BeefA “joint” of beef is a roast. I chose a cross-rib chuck roast. Mixed vegetables, 2-3? I think carrots for sure, then maybe leeks and parsnips. Potatoes would work, but I suggest adding them about an hour before the dish is done, or they will be cooked to death. I like the Hungarian national variation: sour cream, anchovies, garlic, capers, and a bit of lemon. And the red wine from the general suggestion. So here goes!

Römertopf Pot Roast (“Roman Pot Beef”)
serves 4-6

  • cross-rib roast, 2-3 pounds
  • 1 onion, chopped roughly
  • carrots, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, red bell pepper, about 3/4 cup each, roughly chopped
  • fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano) or dried, to your own taste (or use 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning herbs)
  • potatoes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 2 anchovies, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • about 1/2 cup red wine

Soak both the top and bottom of a clay baker in water for at least 10 minutes. Leave your oven off.

Take the clay baker out of the water and towel off. Put the roast in it, then the onion and other vegetables, the herbs, capers, anchovies, lemon rind, garlic, and salt and pepper. Smear the sour cream on top of the roast. Pour a little wine over the mixture. Cover the pot.

Place the clay baker in a cool oven (adjust the oven rack to a low position). Turn the oven to 400˚. Let cook for 2 1/2 hours. You can peek at it during the cooking time to make sure it isn’t drying out and browning, but it does work. And, you can’t add cold liquid anyway, as it might break the pot. You can add quartered potatoes during the last hour of cooking.

Note: CAREFULLY open the clay baker to check the contents. Do not put your face directly over it and pull off the lid. I learned the hard way! It is very hot and steamy! Using a pot holder, lift the lid so that it vents away from you.

At the end of the cooking time, remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove the lid. Take the roast out of the pot, set it on a plate, and cover it with foil. If you wish, use a slotted spoon to remove the (overcooked) vegetables to serve with the roast and then pour the meat juices into a pan to make a gravy. What I did was pour the entire vegetable-meat juice mixture into a food processor, then pulsed until it was fairly smooth. I put that mixture into a pan, added beef stock and about a tablespoon of corn starch, and heated it all until it was thick. It was wonderful!


This “pot beef” was very, very good, as cooked per my version above. It’s hard to tell whether or not it was better than my usual version of a pot roast (a recipe from Cooks Illustrated). In some ways, the preparation was easier, since I did not have to brown the meat first. In some ways, it was harder, since handling the hot, almost fragile clay pot is tricky. But I do like the connection with the past of cooking in a clay pot. Last June, we traveled to Turkey, and learned a lot about ancient civilizations, including the Romans. So, I’ll probably use the clay pot again for a stew or such. It was fun.

My clay pot began this current adventure sort of dirty. Just saying. It’s hard to get clay pots clean. Before this pot beef, I had only used it for baking bread.

clay potHere are the ingredients that I used. You really can use just about whatever you like. There are onions, carrots, parsnips, red bell peppers, garlic, anchovies, capers, and lemon rind in the bowl.

pot beef ingredientsAfter cooking, the vegetables are kind of overdone. The cookbook claims that the cooked mixtures are a good presentation “as is”. I disagree. Plus, look at all the browned stuff on the sides that will be hard to clean off.

cooked beef potThe meat itself is nicely browned and very tender. As I wrote above, I made a gravy from the meat juices and food-processed vegetables. When the pot had cooled a bit, I used some beef stock to rinse some of the nice browned stuff into the gravy mixture. I served it over big flat noodles and it was excellent. Good flavor, tender meat.

Clean-up time. I soaked the pot in soapy water for an hour or so, and to my surprise, it cleaned up nicely. So no complaints from me.

clay pot soaking