250 Cookbooks: Cookies, Brownies and Bars

Cookbook #95: Cookies, Brownies and Bars, Classic Cookbooks, The Pillsbury Company, Minneapolis, MN, 1991.

Cookies, Brownies and BarsI have covered several Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbooks in this blog, and three Pillsbury cookbooks that are not Bake-Off associated: Simply From Scratch Recipes (1977), Healthy Home-Style Cooking (1989), and Cookies, Bars and Brownies (1994). I recall a time when these small cookbooks became available monthly, either at the supermarket’s check-out stand or by subscription. I did a little web research and found this to be true:

“Pillsbury Publications launched the concept of digest-sized, full color food magazines in 1979. By 1989, the concept had developed into a monthly series of Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks that were available at supermarket checkouts and later by subscription. The recipes all use Pillsbury name brand products. The wonderful photos are guaranteed to get you in the mood to cook! Advertising Cookbooks is pleased to carry many of the back issues of this popular recipe magazine.” —Advertising Cookbooks, accessed 12/2014.

These “advertising” cookbooks can have some great recipes. The Advertising Cookbooks website even offers some of the back issues for sale. They sell my Healthy Home-Style Cooking for $6 USD. Pillsbury, Better Homes and Gardens, Betty Crocker, Women’s Circle, Land O Lakes and many other companies produced/produce this type of cookbook. (If interested, do visit the Food Company Cookbook blog associated with the Advertising Cookbooks website.)

My copy of Zestful Recipes for Every Meal – published in 1931 – is the oldest digest-sized, in-color advertising cookbook that I own. It’s pretty cool.

Cookies, Brownies and Bars is one of my favorite Pillsbury Classics Cookbooks. It was published in 1991, at a time when I was baking a lot of cookies for my young family or for friends at work or for Christmas packages. I tried and liked a lot of recipes in this cookbook: Peanut and Candy Jumbles, Almond Kiss Cookies, Ranger Crispies, Oatmeal Coconut Fun Chippers, Chocolate Chip Cookies Supreme, Chocolate Raisin Smile Cookies, Almond Fudge Brownies, Fruitcake Fantasy Brownies, German Chocolate Saucepan Brownies (these are fantastic! I’ve made them a lot), Chocolaty Caramel Pecan Bars, Mocha Almond Fudge Bars, and Applesauce Granola Bars. And the recipe for Chocolate Pixies is quite similar similar to one of my Favorites: Chocolate Chews.

Now that is a record amount of cookie recipes for me to have tried from one book!

Another thing I like about this cookbook are the “Cook’s Notes” on many of the pages. Next to a recipe for gingerbread bars that calls for molasses, a Cook’s Note explains the difference between light, dark, and blackstrap molasses. Another note helps the cook decide between butter and margarine. The Chocolate Raisin Smile Cookies have a Cook’s Note about dark and golden raisins.

And another good thing! A lot of the recipes call for what we generally consider “healthy” ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables (e.g. apples, raisins, zucchini) and whole grains (whole wheat flour, oatmeal). Most of the recipes are from-scratch. They even give directions for baking at high altitude.

I decide to make “Oatmeal Coconut Fun Chippers”. I made them before and marked them as “good”. This drop cookie recipe has brown sugar, a lot of vanilla, oatmeal, coconut, and M&Ms®. I am sure these are better than just “good”!

Oatmeal Coconut Fun Chippers original recipeNote the note next to the recipe in Cookies, Brownies and Bars. It explains the difference between old-fashioned rolled oats, quick-cooking rolled oats, and instant oats. For this recipe, I have the option of either old-fashioned or quick-cooking oatmeal. I chose old-fashioned, which I am advised will result in a firmer textured cookie. I can also choose between butter and margarine: I chose butter. And, I can choose between M&Ms® or chocolate chips: I chose M&Ms®! Also, since we live at high altitude, I added an extra 2 tablespoons flour.

Getting the M&Ms® required a trip to my small town of Lyons, since I don’t keep them in my pantry. It was a frigid, snowy, icy drive, but I did it – anything for this blog! I was lucky to find them at the gas station store, since the two markets in Lyons carry mostly natural foods. Aah, Colorado.

My version is below.

Oatmeal Coconut M&M® Cookies
makes about 4 1/2 dozen

  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (I used salted butter)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/8 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups oatmeal (I used old-fashioned, quick-cooking might give a more tender cookie)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • M&Ms®, about 1 1/2 cups (10 oz.)

Beat the brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla and eggs and blend well.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then add to the beaten mixture and blend until mixed in. Stir in the oatmeal, coconut, and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets (I lined my cookie sheet with parchment). Bake at 375˚ for 10 minutes.

OatCocoMM cookiesComments

These are not just good, they are very good, and chewy and hearty and sweet! These cookies would be a great energy food on a hike, because they hold together well (like a granola bar).

Here is a batch of cookies waiting to be baked. See the M&Ms®?

ready to bakeI baked the first batch 12 minutes and I think they got a little too browned:

12 minutes bakingI baked the rest of the batches 10 minutes and liked them better. It’s my opinion that they keep better if they are a little bit under-baked.

baked 10 minutes I’ll make these again!

250 Cookbooks: Holiday Cook Book

Cookbook #94: Holiday Cook Book, by the editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine, Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, CA, 1988.

Sunset Holiday Cook BookChristmas is coming! A good time to look through Holiday Cook Book. I enjoyed turning the pages of recipes and looking at the photos of gorgeous holiday meals. This cook book has ideas for entertaining on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Decorating ideas abound. (I’m kind of lame at decorating.)

This was a fun book to look through, but I really don’t need any more holiday recipes. This cookbook was my mother’s and even she didn’t mark any of the recipes. I will recycle this book. But not before making Black and White Squares! These chocolate and vanilla refrigerator cookies have just a touch of flare, perfect for the holiday season.

Black and White SquaresBlack and White Cookies
makes about 2 1/2 -3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer, then mix in the egg yolk. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the vanilla and milk. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with the milk mixture.

Melt the chocolate (I microwaved it). Divide the dough in half and add the melted chocolate to one half. I kind of kneaded the chocolate in by hand.

Form each half of the dough into a log about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.

cookie logsWrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least two hours.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, cut each log in half lengthwise. Stack a white layer, then a chocolate layer, and repeat. Press together and square up the sides a bit. Slice 1/8-inch cookies.

slicing cookiesPlace on parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheets.

cookies before bakingBake at 350˚ for 10 minutes.


We liked these a lot!
Black and White CookiesA couple cookies got a little brown; these were ones that I had sliced a bit thinner. I only baked one batch and put the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator – that’s what I like about refrigerator cookies, you can bake up just a few at a time and always have fresh cookies.

Note added in proof: These cookies are really really great. Subtly rich, subtly chocolate, we kept going back for more. I want to make them again already!

250 Cookbooks: The Cooking of China

Cookbook #93: The Cooking of China, Emily Hahn and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, NY, 1968. Foods of the World series; fifth printing, revised 1976.

The Cooking of China cookbookMickey was a young woman from Missouri living in Shanghai in the late 1930s. She had an affair with a Chinese poet, took her pet gibbon to dinner parties, became addicted to opium (“though I had always wanted to be an opium addict, I can’t claim that as the reason I went to China”), moved to Hong Kong in 1940 and had an affair with the local head of British Army Intelligence. Way before all those happenings, she was the first American woman to earn a degree in engineering, a pursuit she chose only after being refused permission to take a chemistry class. After college graduation she drove across the US with a woman friend, and they were both disguised as men. All during her adventures, she was writing: 52 books and nearly 200 articles and stories.

And who was Mickey? Emily Hahn, the author of this book! The statements above are all from an article about her on Wikipedia. I am so intrigued that I am going to search the University library for one of her books – China to Me: A Partial Autobiography.

The writing in The Cooking of China reads like a gathering of stories. It is fascinating. At the end of each chapter are recipes, written by Florence Lin and Grace Chu, teachers at the China Institute in New York. The Foods of the World series editor Michael Field was responsible for recipe and food presentation. Michael Rougier, a Life photographer, did the stunning photos in this cook book.

The main theme of this book is the Chinese people’s reverence for good food. “Food is not only pleasurable but a good deal more. It is a truism that food is life, but with the Chinese it is also health and a symbol of other good things such as luck and prosperity. Heaven loves the man who eats well. At each meal a Chinese adds to his virtue, strengthening resistance to the ills of body and mind, curing ailments or, possibly, rendering himself capable of better work. He is also, of course, staving off death, but so are we all.”

Emily Hahn covers the history of Chinese cuisine and the different cooking styles of the main four regions. She presents diverse cooking ingredients and methods, supported by photographs. Her opinion of the Red Guards who appeared in the late 1960s is quite clear. And she describes great dinner parties, ones she attended or imagined ones from the past.

I love this book. It’s been my reference for Chinese cooking for over thirty years. Granted, some of the recipes are just too much work to follow, and some of the ingredients are difficult to find (bird nests? shark fins?). But to me, it is the source for Chinese cuisine. Now that I discovered Emily Hahn’s personal story, I like the book even more.

The Cooking of China is actually a set of two books: the large hardcover book, and an accompanying spiral bound collection of the recipes. I counted these as one book in my database. The recipe that I have used the most is the one for Pearl Balls. For this blog, I decide to try Steamed Buns with Roast Pork Dumplings. I have wanted to make steamed buns ever since a graduate student from China brought them to a dinner party way back in the seventies. But: the work! Now I have the time and experience to try these. It involves making the roast pork, the yeast dough, and finally assembling the rolls and steaming them. And since it’s a Chinese meal, I will also be making pearl balls and egg rolls as well as a soup and rice. So it will be a project. I look forward to this adventure in my kitchen!

To make the dinner-day easier, I prepare the roast pork a couple days ahead. Here is the original recipe for Roast Pork Strips.

roast pork strips recipeI don’t have brown bean sauce, only hot bean sauce (see my Asian ingredients reference). A trip to the Asian Seafood Market! I have to ask the lady in the market, and she assures me that “bean sauce” is what I want.

The marinade step is easy, but roasting? They direct me to hang thick pork slices off hooks in the oven above a pan of water. Well, I did that, using skewers, and it worked. But I think it could be cooked on a rack in any roasting pan instead. I’ll include both methods in my version of this recipe.

Roast Chinese Pork Strips

  • pork butt roast, boneless, 2-3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon bean sauce, mashed (substitute with a tablespoon of soy sauce or hoisin sauce if you don’t want to search the stores for bean sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry (use Chinese rice wine if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • a few drops red food coloring

I gather my ingredients:

roast pork ingredientsCut the roast lengthwise into 3 or 4 thick slices (1 1/2-inch – 2-inch slices).

pork stripsThen cut each slice in half lengthwise so that you have 6 or 8 long, thick slices.

pork stripsCombine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Put the meat and marinade in a large ziplock-style bag and carefully close it, eliminating as much of the air as you can.

marinading the roast pork stripsSet in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. If  you remember, turn it over from time to time.

To cook the roast strips, you can probably place them on a rack over a parchment or foil lined pan, or a pan with a couple inches of water in it, and bake first for 45 minutes at 350˚, then for 15 minutes at 450˚.

I cooked it more according to the original recipe. If you want to try my way, set a large flat pan of water, a couple inches deep, in a cold oven. Thread one end of a pork strip on a long metal skewer. Hold the skewer in the oven and put the pork strip through two rungs of your oven rack. Carefully thread another pork strip on the skewer and put the new strip through two different rungs of your oven rack (wherever it fits). Continue until all the pork strips are hung. Here, a photo will help:

roast pork in ovenTurn on the oven to 350˚ and bake 45 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450˚ and cook another 15 minutes. Carefully remove the skewers and pork from the oven and cool.

cooked roast pork stripsStore the pork in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook the rolls. Traditionally, these pork strips are sliced into paper-thin slices for serving as part of a meal.

Here is the original recipe for Steamed Buns with Roast Pork Dumplings.

steamed pork buns recipeI made a half-recipe and used my bread machine to prepare the dough. I steamed them in Chinese style bamboo steamers set in a pan of boiling water. I lined the steamer trays with parchment for easy cleaning.

bamboo steamerMy version of steamed buns follows.

Steamed Buns with Pork Filling
makes 12

for the dough:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cups flour

for the filling:

  • 1 pound roast Chinese pork strips, prepared as in the above recipe
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in a little water

Put the dough ingredients in a breadmaker set to the dough cycle, or knead the dough by hand and let it rise until double.

Prepare the filling while you wait for the dough. First, chop the pork strips into small pieces. Cook in a small amount of hot oil for a minute or so, then add the sugar and soy sauce and stir for a minute. Add the corn starch mixture and stir for about 10 seconds, until the mixture thickens and the pork is covered with a clear glaze. Take it off the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and roll into a long cylinder about 2 inches in diameter. Cut the cylinder into 12 sections. Roll each section into a circle about 4 inches in diameter.

Put the filling on the dough circles. Gather the sides of the dough up around the filling in loose folds meeting at the top. Then twist the top of the dough firmly closed.

filling the bunsPlace the filled buns an inch apart in parchment-lined steamer trays and let rise about 30 minutes. (Those are my Pearl Balls in the front steamer.)

ready to steamSteam the buns for 10 minutes.

steamed bunsThe buns I made had more dough than I like. I followed the recipe in the book carefully, measuring the size of the dough cylinder and the size of each round. But, I only made 9 buns from all the dough. I should made 12! Next time I will make them as I wrote in the above recipe and I am sure they will be perfect.

I served these with egg rolls and pearl balls and fried rice and sour-and-hot soup. I had sweet and sour sauce on the table and also a bottle of “banana sauce” that I picked up at the Asian store. These sauces were good with the steamed buns.

ready to eat!Success! I finally made steamed pork buns and they are great. I now have another Chinese recipe to add to my repertoire.

250 Cookbooks: The Nutrition Bible

Cookbook #92: The Nutrition Bible, Jean Anderson and Barbara Deskins, Quill, Willaim Morrow, NY, 1995.

The Nutrition Bible“The Comprehensive, No-Nonsense Guide to Foods, Nutrients, Additives, Preservatives, Pollutants and Everything Else We Eat and Drink.” This is a large, thick book that pretty much lives up to its promise on the cover. And it does it with attitude, which makes it fun to read.

Why would anyone need a print book with all of this easy-to-look-up information about foods? You can always search the internet instead. Aha! But what about when you have an extended power outage, and no cell phone coverage, as we did during the Lyons flood last year? And some entries I would never even think of looking up: aldacarb, ketoacidosis, keratomalacia, furcelleran, efamol, weisswurst. Twiinkies! The Pritikin diet. Hunger. Fudge. These are all discussed in The Nutrition Bible. Here is an example of an entry with attitude:

Nutrition Bible entryAs a retired semi-scientist, I get a kick out of reading this “bible”. Plus, it has good nutritional information for the foods. Here is an example:

Nutrition Bible entryThe authors of this book both hold degrees in nutrition. Jean Anderson, who earned a B.S. in food and nutrition and an M.S. in journalism, is the author of numerous cookbooks, including The Food of Portugal and The Grass Roots Cookbook. Barbara Deskins, as an associate professor of clinical dietetics and nutrition, wrote Everyone’s Guide to Better Food and Nutrition. References for specific entries are not footnoted, but an extensive bibliography is included in the back pages. And the author of one of the books in the bibliography? An old favorite of mine, Jane Brody, whose nutrition book I covered in a blog post.

This book also contains some recipes, interspersed throughout the encyclopedia-type entries. For this blog, I choose to make Lamb with Green Beans, Chickpeas, and Tomatoes.

Lamb with Chickpeas and moreThis recipe should be good for a cold winters day. Note that there are more vegetables in this dish than meat: the meat is more of a “seasoning” than a main ingredient. As we learned from our daughter who lives in Africa and from our own travels, in a large part of the world, meat is much less prevalent than in the US. And maybe that is a healthier way to eat. Anyway, I hope it tastes good. I made a few changes; my version is below.

Lamb Stew with Tomatoes and Vegetables
serves 4-6

  • 9 ounces lamb (I used a single lamb steak-chop), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • rosemary, either 1 teaspoon dried or a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into about 2-inch lengths
  • 1 cup garbanzos (chick peas)

In a stove-top-to-oven casserole (I used a LeCreuset), cook the onions in a little oil. Salt them a bit. When they are about done, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Remove from the pan.

Brown the lamb cubes in a little oil. My lamb kept releasing water into the pan, so this took a little while.

Add the onions and garlic back to the casserole along with the tomatoes, rosemary, and parsley. Salt and pepper to your liking. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in a 350˚ oven.

Bake for 30 minutes. The lamb I used was really tender, so this was plenty of time. Add the green beans and garbanzos and put back in the oven for 15 minutes.

You can serve this lamb stew over bulgur, rice, potatoes, or couscous. I chose bulgur, a cracked wheat product that is common throughout the Middle East. We had it on our trip to Turkey. It is also spelled burghul, bulghur, burghul or bulgar. I bought some at the Mediterranean Market and Deli in Boulder. The package reads: Cracked Wheat Coarse Burghul #3. I recommend everyone try this sometime!

Lamb StewThat’s the bulgur in the pan behind the stew. This stew was very good. I felt really healthy eating it – it’s low in fat and has lots of vegetables. Lamb is generally lower in fat than is beef. The lamb was good, and in fact, my husband didn’t even know it was lamb, he assumed it was beef.

I’ll keep the Nutrition Bible and I’ll make this lamb stew once in a while. Try it, it’s different!