250 Cookbooks: Step-by-Step Microwave Cook Book

Cookbook #168: Step-by-Step Microwave Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa, 1987.

Microwave Guide and Cookbook

I do like Better Homes and Gardens publications! As I leaf through this one, I find myself enjoying most everything: the photos and the writing and the recipes. Reminds me of the BH&G Golden Treasury of Cooking that I covered a couple weeks ago. Checking my cookbook database, I find 17 BH&G books, and I have covered all but this one so far – and most I decided to keep.

I bought this cookbook for my mother in 1990, when she got a microwave oven.


My mother never really liked “new fangled things”. She held out on a garbage disposal for years, and never wanted (or had) a dishwasher or clothes dryer. She relented to a microwave oven around 1990 – it came as the upper oven in her new stove. (I remember how long she needed a new stove, how the bottom was almost baked through by the time my father gave in and bought a new one.) My guess is that I found this cookbook in a bookstore, because I (still) like it so much (and purchasing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore is likely too because online book-buying was in its infancy in 1990).

I went into some detail on microwave ovens when I covered cookbook #17, Whirlpool Micro Menus Cookbook. I highly recommend reading that “old” post of mine! It talks of early microwaves and my uncle and how we were a bit wary of microwave ovens at first but how even ex-hippie-me finally added one to my kitchen. Now I would hate to live without a microwave oven, even though I use it mostly for tasks like defrosting or re-heating or melting cheese or making burritos, or baking chores like melting chocolate.

Microwave cookbooks encourage the reader to prepare the entire meal in the microwave, from appetizers to soup to stews to meats to breads to desserts. That’s simply not the way I cook! But, I am always looking for ideas and sometimes I need microwave cooking times and methods, so I will keep one or two microwave guides on my cookbook shelf.

Okay, details on why I like this cookbook. The appetizer section gives lots of good ideas, especially South-of-the Border-Style Meatballs, Pork Kabobs, Taco Chicken Nuggets, and party and snack and nut mixes ideas. The bread section describes how to use your microwave to raise yeast dough. I like the quick breads Cranberry Orange Loaf and Chocolate and Whole Wheat Ring and the cakes Pumpkin-Raisin Cake and Applesauce Cake, but I’d probably adapt them for a conventional oven. I’ve never thought of making candies like divinity or brittles in the microwave, but it might be nicer than standing over a hot stove. Excellent instructions for scrambled eggs and omelets. Fish and Vegetables En Papillote sounds good. Mother tried and liked “Saucy Tuna-Mac Casserole”. Walnut Bananas Foster! Sounds good for grandkids (if you leave out the rum!). If my regular oven breaks, I could simmer a pot roast in my microwave. I like the Spaghetti Pie, Mexican-Style Manicotti, and Saucy Sausage and Noodles casseroles. Good instructions for defrosting and cooking chicken pieces and a “Creating a chicken casserole” section. I like the chocolate and butterscotch ice cream toppings.

Clear instructions for thawing and cooking different foods are throughout the book, and the end of each section has the nutritional analysis of each recipe. Throughout, I am impressed by the clear instructions. Yes, I will keep this cookbook.

I choose to make Mexican Beef Salad for this blog.

Mexican Beef Salad recipeThe round steak is cooked in the microwave, plus the prep takes just a few minutes. The whole salad can be prepared in just one bowl. It’s July, and hot, and the less time spent in a hot kitchen, the better! I do think this salad needs a little salsa and avocado. I also put a few tortilla chips in our salads for some crunch.

I had trouble finding a small can of “yellow hominy”. At my local supermarket, they only had 6 pound cans of hominy! The labels didn’t say “yellow” hominy, but the picture on one of the choices looked a little yellower than the others. I bought that one huge can, and when I opened it, the hominy inside was pretty pale. And now I have the rest of the can to re-purpose.

The ingredient amounts in my version of this recipe (below) are approximate. It is, after all, just a salad! Experiment as you wish.

Mexican Beef Salad
serves 2

  • 8-12 ounces beef round steak
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used champagne vinegar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you have it)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup hominy (about)
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 green (or red) pepper, chopped or sliced
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup sliced black olives
  • halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup jack cheese, cut into small cubes, or grated
  • torn lettuce (I suggest romaine or iceberg)
  • optional: avocados, salsa, and tortilla chips

Slice the round steak into bite-sized strips. (It is easier to slice thinly if you put it in the freezer for about an hour first.)

Place the meat in a 1-quart glass casserole. Add 1 tablespoon oil, then microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until the meat is done.

Remove the meat from the casserole with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the drippings in the casserole. Stir in vinegar, salt, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and cayenne. Cook in the microwave on high about 30 seconds, or until it is bubbling. Add the cooked meat, hominy, onion, green pepper, and olives. Toss to coat. Cover and chill 3-24 hours.

When ready to serve the salad, stir the cherry tomatoes into the meat and vegetable mixture. Fill two bowls with as much lettuce as you like. Add the meat-vegetable mixture.

If you like, add chopped avocados and salsa, and garnish with tortilla chips.

Mexican Beef SaladThis was a great salad for a hot summer night! I’m sure I’ll make it again.

250 Cookbooks: Cookies, Cakes ‘n Muffins

Cookbook #167: Cookies, Cakes ‘n Muffins, Kraft Kitchens, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1958.

Cookies Cakes 'n Muffins cookbook

A mystery presents itself as I open Cookies, Cakes ‘n Muffins. What is the publication date? All it says is “The Kraft Kitchens, Chicago, Illinois”.

Sleuthing-me sets out on the internet. When did “Kraft” first emerge as a company name? Wikipedia tells me that James L. Kraft started a cheese business in Chicago in the early 1900s, and his brothers joined him to form “J. L. Kraft and Bros. Company” in 1909. By 1923, the Kraft brothers company was part of the National Dairy Corporation. In 1969, National Dairy changed its name to Kraftco Corporation. In 1976, its name changed to Kraft, Inc.

This all led me to think that since the booklet was produced by “The Kraft Kitchens”, it must have been produced after 1976. But the illustrations are much older-looking than the 1970s era:


Kind of like the era of the TV show “Father Knows Best”. A necklace and all dressed up as the mom works in the kitchen? Definitely the 50s or the 60s. (“Father Knows Best” ran from 1954 to 1960.)

Maybe the phrase “Parkay margarine” will help me figure out the date. No, that clue is no help. Except: the “butter” sales line of the 1973 commercial is not in this booklet. So my booklet must be before 1973.

(An aside: A famous 1973 commercial claims Kraft’s Parkay tastes like butter: “A housewife looks at a square box of Parkay in her kitchen and says ‘Parkay’. In a rather comical voice the box of Parkay says ‘butter’, they go back and forth until she tries a taste of it and she says “butter” so the square box of Parkay says ‘Parkay!'”)

Then this catches my eye:


Kraftco transferred to Glenview, Illinois, in 1972. So I think I am right that this cookbook is pre-1970s. But hey, there is no zip code in the address! Aha, a clue! When did zip codes become part of US addresses? Wikipedia informs me that zip codes were introduced in 1963, became mandatory for 2nd and 3rd class mail in 1967, and thereafter were soon adopted generally. Before zip codes, postal “zones” were used, thus explaining the “Chicago 90″ in the address.”

Therefore, this booklet was definitely produced before 1963.

To further narrow down the publication date, I googled “photo Parkay margarine”. This pulled up a lot of photos of Parkay margarine packages through the years. One package looks just like this illustration on the back of Cookies, Cakes ‘n Muffins:

Parkay photo I follow the photo that looks like my cookbooklet to the page of origin. The photo is a Kraft’s Parkay Advertisement in Ebony Magazine, November, 1959.

My conclusion: this booklet was published sometime in the late 1950s. I add with confidence the publication date of “circa 1958″.

Whew. Now, to the cookbook contents: recipes. They are okay but pretty similar to recipes in other books. And, there aren’t many. Also, I like to use butter rather than margarine. The only reason I might keep this cookbook is that it is “vintage”.

I decide to make “Orange Muffins” for this blog. I will use butter instead of margarine, and cut down the amount of baking powder – 1 tablespoon just seems like too much! The recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but as I fill my muffin pan with batter to my usual “2/3 full” per muffin cup, 8 good sized muffins was all the batter allowed.

Orange Muffins
makes 8 good sized muffins, or 12 smallish ones

  • 1/3 cup butter (use margarine if you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon orange rind
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and orange rind. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the milk and orange juice. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk-orange juice mixture, mixing well after each addition.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400˚ for 15-20 minutes.

Orange MuffinsThese are very good. Cake-like, but not too sweet for breakfast.

250 Cookbooks: Golden Treasury of Cooking

Cookbook #166: Golden Treasury of Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Corporation, USA, 1973.

The Golden Treasury of Cooking cookbook

“With one foot planted in the past and one in the future, Americans are propelling themselves forward into the ’70s. In all areas of life there is a paradoxical blending of past and future – especially in food. Homemakers are performing a modern juggling act. On one hand, they are using foods that are quick, easy, and convenient. While, on the other hand, they are going back to many of the old, time-tested cooking techniques that their grandmothers used. Out of all this comes such diverse ideas as microwave cooking, making your own breads, computerized meal planning, and organic gardening. What lies in the future? Whatever it is, it’s sure to be the best of both worlds – the nostalgic old one of the past and the bright new one of the future.”

Golden Treasury of Cooking, page 261

One foot in the past, and one in the future. My cooking philosophy for sure. And the present? That’s where I am, thinking about what to learn, to discover, and to cook today.

This week, I decided to take the Golden Treasury of Cooking off the shelf. I’ve been putting this one off because I know it will take some time. This is a special book, a super-collection of nostalgic recipes, and handsomely illustrated and presented. But more than that, it was given to my mother from my father for Christmas 1973.

inscription in Golden Treasury of Cooking

The Golden Treasury of Cooking a gorgeous book. Although now faded, the cover is golden, and a little puffy-soft. I am sure it was meant to be a coffee table book. This book compiles Better Homes and Gardens magazine’s recipes from 1930 to the early 1970s. It’s sectioned into decades: the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Each section begins with a bit of history – good Americana. A full page photo of a sample magazine cover graces each historical review, and then a fold-out photo collage of memorabilia from the age. Each decade’s recipes are sectioned into representative featured recipes (recipes from restaurants or famous people, or popular trends such as home canning, barbecues, convenience cooking, or natural foods) and then a good collection of recipes from Better Homes and Gardens magazines of the decade.

I spend quite a few hours this week reading this book. I especially enjoy reading each decade’s introduction, each along the lines of the quote, above. I think of my grandmother in the 30s, my mom in the 40s and 50s, and me in the kitchen in the 60s and 70s. The 70s is especially fun, with its predictions of the future:

Golden Treasury of Cooking excerpt

My mother’s notes are throughout this book. It’s fun to page through the recipes! Some of the recipes that interest me: Daffodil Cake (an angel food and sponge cake all in one), Orange Biscuits, Meatballs Stroganoff, Banana Apricot Bread, Puffy Tortilla Bake (includes crepes), Dilly Bread (a yeast bread with cottage cheese in it), Blueberry Dumplings (stove top blueberries with dumplings), Strawberry Shortcake (a good biscuit recipe), and Pfeffernuesse (old-fashioned anise flavored cookies), Stuffed Date Drops (Mother marked “Delicious!!”), Skillet Enchiladas, and the original Toll House Cookies recipe. I also found a recipe for “Bun-steads”. I think these are the baked tuna sandwiches that Mother used to make. They sound weird today, but I used to like them: a tuna and egg salad mixture baked with cheese inside a frankfurter bun.

The Golden Treasury of Cooking is reviewed by The Iowa Housewife. She included some photos and recipes from the book that you might find interesting.

For this blog I decide to make Pineapple Upside Down Cake, from the 40s section. I currently have a recipe in my documents that I cobbled together, but I’d like to try this one.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe

The only change I plan is to keep the pineapple rings whole, and put a maraschino cherry inside each ring.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
makes one 8 x 8-inch cake

  • 1 8 1/4-ounce can pineapple slices
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • maraschino cherries
  • milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Drain the pineapple, reserving the syrup. Melt the butter in an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan; stir in the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the reserved pineapple syrup. Arrange the pineapple rings in the pan – you might have to cut a few in half to cover the bottom of the pan. Put maraschino cherries into the center of each pineapple ring. Set the pan aside.

Add milk to the remaining pineapple syrup to make 1/2 cup liquid. Cream together the white sugar, shortening, and vanilla. Add egg; beat well. Stir together the dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with liquid, beating after each addition.

Spread the dough carefully over the pineapple-brown sugar mixture in the pan. Bake at 350˚ for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is turning brown around the edges. Cool 5 minutes and then invert carefully onto a plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Pineapply Upside Down CakeOh yes, this was good! It has always been one of my husband’s favorite desserts. It was rich and sweet and very pineapple-y. Will I make it again, and do I recommend it? Yes to both. But next time I make this cake, I will compare and contrast the above recipe with my cobbled-together recipe. It’s almost too sweet, even for my taste!