250 Cookbooks: New Pillsbury Family Cookbook

Cookbook #202: The New Pillsbury Family Cookbook, The Pillsbury Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1973.

New Pillsbury Family CookbookThe New Pillsbury Family Cookbook is one of my three most-used reference cookbooks, alongside McCall’s Cook Book (1963) and the Joy of Cooking (1964). I always reference this book when cooking a good roast, especially a rib eye roast. I also use the fruit pie baking guide. This book is well-used, but entirely readable! It’s great for basic quick bread recipes too. If I want advice on how to cook or bake anything, this is one of the three I consult. Or, if I want to compare recipes.

The tone is straightforward, no “bossiness” like Joy of Cooking. The writing style is not “chummy” either. I am very comfortable with this book and its recipes – I grew up with this type of cooking, and began cooking this way, and still do, a lot of the time. Sure I often cook more twenty-first century, exploring new ingredients and methods, but our day-to-day meals are usually pretty twentieth century. We rarely eat dinner out, and that means I’ve had to come up with meal ideas zillions of times to keep things from getting boring. The New Pillsbury Family Cookbook? I won’t let go of it!

I search the web, and discover that others must also like this cookbook. It’s labelled a “classic cookbook” and also “vintage”. Hey, I resemble that remark! (I bought it when I was only 23.) This is a five-ring loose-leaf binder cookbook. I find that it was also published as a hard-bound book (408 pages, just like mine) and is now selling for as much as $74 when in mint condition (VintageCookbook.com). Guess I’m not the only one who likes classic American cookbooks.

Pillsbury is currently a brand name used by both General Mills (Minneapolis-based) and the J.M. Smucker Company (Orrville, Ohio-based). (Wikipedia.) Pillsbury has a current website with lots of recipes. Note that Pillsbury is also the name on many of the “Bake-Off” booklets that I have covered in this blog.

One thing about this book has always made me smile: cake, candy, and pie sections come before meats and main dishes. Vegetables are last. I like cake first too! . . .  but just now I realize . . . the chapters are in alphabetical order. Geesh, that takes some of the fun out of it!

As I flip through the pages, I note several recipes I’d like to try. I like the “batter” breads in the yeast bread section, like English Muffin Bread and Dilly Casserole Bread. These are no-knead breads, and although not held overnight like the current no-knead breads I make, they give a hole-filled texture, kind of like a crunch, to the finished breads. I note an apple cake that has 2 cups of fresh apples and only 3/4 cup of flour. The Carrot Cake has honey in it, and less oil than the current very good but also very high calorie version that is my standard. It also suggests using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and gives directions for baking at high altitude (5200 feet). I made notes on the Brownies and Pumpkin Bars recipes. If I make a pecan pie, I consult this book – and have post-it notes on that page. If I forget the proportions for a graham cracker crust, or want to make a pie crust from vanilla wafers or other cookies, directions are in a nice table on page 147. And page 149 is indespensible to me: a table of how to bake different sizes and kinds of fruit pies.

Once again . . . I really do like this reference book. But let’s go on.

Pages 206-207 hold my post-it notes and magazine clippings for cooking prime rib roasts. These expensive, large roasts go on sale every holiday season, and I usually buy them to cook New Years Eve. Often with “roasted potatoes”, a delightful way to cook potatoes that my daughter and I first enjoyed in England in 2002. Today, I find a recipe for “Citrus Simmered Steak”, thick round steak that is simmered for a couple hours on the stove top. I decide to make this recipe for this blog, since I bought just such a steak yesterday on sale. Sounds like a nice, different mix of seasonings:

Citrus Simmered Steak recipeThe poultry and game chapter shows signs of “well-use”, but I haven’t marked any recipes. Today I do, though! “Golden Oven-Fried Chicken” is coated with cornflakes, almonds, and Parmesan cheese. Now, I’ve made cornflake-coated chicken for years, but almonds and cheese? No. I will make this recipe soon. (271)

The last chapters chapters show little signs of use. Seafood and outdoor cooking, salads and sauces, vegetables. I find a few basic recipes for mayonnaise, waldorf salad, tomato aspic, salad dressings, and a good selection of sauces, like mornay sauce, veloute sauce, hollandise sauce, cocktail sauce, and barbecue sauce.

Okay, time to cook! The recipe from The New Pillsbury Family Cookbook for “Citrus Simmered Steak” is above; below is my version.

Citrus Simmered Steak is simmered for a couple hours on the stove top, so I decided to pull out my big old cast iron pot. Lately I’ve been using the LeCreuset for braising; it’s nice that it goes from stove tip to oven. But I haven’t used the cast iron pot in ages, and thought I’d re-familiarize myself with the benefits of this pot. I suggest any covered, large pot you have, but the heavier the better.

Citrus Simmered Steak
serves about 4

  • 1 3/4-2 pounds round steak, at least 1-inch thick (often, this cut of round steak is called “London broil” in our supermarkets)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (approximate)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • pepper
  • 1 small can mushrooms, stems and pieces, drained (these days, “small” mushroom cans are 7 oz.), or use fresh, sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped or sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 thinly sliced and seeded lemon

Heat the oil in a large pot on the stove top. Salt and pepper the meat, then cut it into large chunks that will fit into the pot. Brown the meat on both sides. Add mushrooms, onion, ketchup, soy sauce, lemon peel and lemon juice, and thyme. Simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Check and stiir occasionally and add a little water if it looks like the mixture is drying out.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pan and set aside. Combine the sugar and cornstarch, then mix in the 1/4 cup water. Add this mixture to the pan and stir into the drippings, heating until bubbly and thick. Add more water if you think it’s too thick. Add the sliced lemon to this gravy, and then add the meat back in. Simmer a few minutes for the flavors to blend.

Slice the steak across the grain (yes, it’s kind of messy to do this). I served the steak-sauce mixture over store-bought gnocchi (because I like them!), but it would also be good over mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.

Citrus Simmered SteakThis was tasty and flavorful I left most of the lemons off my husband’s serving because I wasn’t sure he’d like them. The Swiss/round steak was a bit like, well, like “round steak”. I always find this cut of meat rather chewy and flavorless, no matter how I cook it. With the sauce and the long cooking, though, it did make a good week night meal. I scraped the sauce off the leftover meat, sliced it thinly, and it made a yummy sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce, and ketchup. The last bit of leftover meat went into tacos.

Of course, I am keeping this cookbook!

250 Cookbooks: Betty-Anne’s Helpful Household Hints

Cookbook #201: Betty-Anne’s Helpful Household Hints, Vol. 1, Betty-Anne Hastings with Mary-Beth Connors, Ventura Books, NY, 1983.

Why did I put this book in my “cookbook” database? There is not a single recipe in it, except ones for making play dough for kids. Well, the book’s in my database, so I gotta cover it!

Betty-Anne Hastings does not have much of an internet presence. Amazon lists Betty-Anne’s Helpful Household Hints for sale for $0.01, with one review: “I’d be lying if I didn’t say this book saved my life. For years I threw perfectly good trash away when I could be re-purposing it! Thanks Betty-Anne!” I did find Vol. 2 for sale too (note my volume is #1). A few other online bookstores have copies for sale. Betty-Anne’s Helpful Household Hints is noted in the Simple and Delicious blog (a 2014 entry).

Betty-Anne’s Helpful Household Hints is a small paperback, 127 pages in a largish font. Seven sections (see below), but no table of contents and – most importantly – no index. If you would like a tip, like how to make your dog safer while running loose at night, you have to go to the “Our Furry Friends” section and read through all the entries to see if the author has a suggestion (she does!).

These days, we simply “GTS”* to find tips on how to do most anything. Or go to a website/magazine like Real Simple.

I am not going to keep this book, but I’ll share with you some of the curious and helpful hints from each of the seven sections. And for my “recipe”, I’ll let my grandkids play with a batch of play dough!

play dough

1. A Potpourri of More Household Hints

“Ashtrays needn’t be a cleaning problem. For all your ashtrays (except your glass or crystal ones) just coat the surface with your favorite furniture polish. The protective coating will allow burns and ash build-up to just rinse out.”

“There’s nothing worse than a dull razor blade! But you may not have to throw it away yet. Try sharpening it on the striking edge of an old match book cover.”

“Let’s knot get the thread tangled. Even the most careful seamstress is likely to wind up with tangled thread while sewing. One way to help solve that problem is to work the knotting a little differently. Instead of taking the two strands of thread and knotting them together, knot each strand separately. You’ll be surprised at how few tangles you’ll have in the future.”

“Where can I store all my blankets in this small apartment? Lay the blankets out smoothly between the mattress and springs of your bed.”

2. Recycling Tips and Helpers

This is the first page from the recycling chapter – it’s a great example of the “tone” of this book.

recycling tipsA few more excerpts from this chapter follow.

“Keep a windowshade in the trunk. This is a space-saving device that you can be mighty happy to have handy. Use it as a ground throw for an impromptu picnic. Or, if you ever have a flat tire, a window shade can help to protect you and your clothing from the cold, dirty ground.”

“Take the juice of one banana skin . . . Would you believe banana skins have juice? Well,to find out for sure, try this bright trick. Cut off the hard ends. Throw the soft pulpy portion of the peel into a processor. Take the banana puree and use it to shine up your silver. You’ll be impressed.”

3. Gardening Victories

“Your very own compost heap . . . Everybody talks about compost heaps, but did you ever wonder what should really go into one? Here are some suggestions: coffee grounds . . . all leftover fruits and vegetables . . . plant cuttings and stalks . . . mulched up leaves . . . cut grass . . . any spoiled fruits and vegetables . . .  all peelings . . . eggshells . . . rinds . . . wood chips, etc. Leave out animal fats and anything that isn’t biodegradable.”

“Garden and have clean nails. If you don’t wear gloves, but hate the look of your nails after the job is finished, give them some extra protection with ordinary soap. Dampen the bar and then dig in. The caked soap under your nails will keep out the dirt.”

4. Clothing Care Tips

“Cold hands, cold wash. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast and hang your clothes to dry outside in the winter, here’s a way to keep your hands a bit warmer doing the chore. Fill a hot water bottle with hot water and throw it into the basket. Each time you grab for another item, just give that bottle a warming squeeze.”

“Tired of grey looking lingerie? Next time this happens, give them a little color lift. Don’t worry about the dye. It’s easy. Make up some hot, strong tea and soak them until your lingerie is just a little darker than desired. Give one quick rinse in cold clear water and the dye is set – and so are you – with fresh, new looking lingerie.”

“New life for an old straw hat. Soak it in cold, salt water until it’s soft and moldable. Then shape it back to its original condition and let it dry.”

5. Traveling and Vacation Hints

“Just before you pack to leave, are you faced with a wet toothbrush? Here’s a way to travel nice and dry. Just take your hair dryer and use it to blow the toothbrush dry. That way, you’ll always be packing a dry brush.”

“A soda tote. Save that paperboard soda six-pack tote and bring it on your camping trip. It collapses flat so it takes up no space. When serving meals, fill it with salt, ketchup and other bottles and carry it all to thte table at once. Saves steps and makes serving a meal easier.”

6. Our Furry Friends

“Want to keep your dog safe when he goes out at night? Try this to protect your dog from being hit by cars when he takes his nocturnal stroll. Just place a reflecting strip on his collar, and that will alert motorists that he’s around. You can also check at your local pet store, for some manufacturers make flea collars that reflect, thus providing two-in-one protection.”

“Does your pet have trouble when rock salt get inside his delicate paws? Try this trick. Take 4 small plastic sandwich bags and fasten them to your pet’s paws with rubber bands. You’ll have instant rainboots!”

(Warning from me: do NOT put food coloring in your hummingbird feeders.) “Here’s a great tip to help you tell when your hummingbird feeder is out of water. All you need to do is add red food coloring to the water and you’ll be able to tell immediately when the water is low! An extra plus is that hummingbirds are attracted to the red color, and if you paint stripes on the feeder with nail polish, it will also help to attract them.”

7. The Kids

“Rememer this simple tip: a child in colorful clothes is easier to find. Nothing stands out in a crowd like a toddler in red, purple or yellow.”

“Want a way to outsmart the baby that shakes his crib and walks it across the room? The way to solve this problem is to place ‘bunion pads’ under each leg of the crib. Then, when the baby tries to walk that crib, it won’t crawl!”

“Use this economical way to store your child’s small collectibles. When you use those large coffee cans, save them. Smooth over any jagged edges. Then paint and glue the cans together. Then you can either place them on their sides so you have a bunch of cubbyholes or you can cap them with the plastic top and use them individually.”

“Have you ever lost your child in a crowd? If so, try this. Tie a whistle around his or her neck, and tell them to blow it repeatedly if they lose you.”


* “GTS” means “google that shit”


250 Cookbooks: Boston Cooking-School Cook Book

Cookbook #200: Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, F. M. Farmer, Little, Brown, & Co., Boston, 1906 edition, perhaps the 1911 revised printing.

Boston Cooking-School Cook BookThe Boston Cooking-School Cook Book is my second-oldest cookbook. It was published in 1906! I hold it in my hands in amazement. The pages are a little brittle, and some of them are falling out, but it’s in pretty good condition, considering. I obtained this book from the Ruth C. Vandenhoudt house when I was in my teens. Ruth had carefully jacketed the front and back covers with canvas cloth, hand sewing the flaps to keep the cover in good condition. I just discovered the good condition of the uncovered book this week, as I gingerly pulled the jacket off the front cover to reveal the 111 year old cover in near-perfect condition (see photo above). Here is how she jacketed the cover:


Fannie Merritt Farmer is the author of my 1906 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. I learned about Fannie Farmer when I covered my 1965 Fannie Farmer Cookbook: “Fannie Farmer, born in 1857, was raised in a family that valued education, but could not attend school because of a crippling illness as a teen. So she started cooking at a boarding house at her parents home. Her interest in cooking took her to the Boston Cooking School, where she excelled as a student and eventually became school principal.” Please refer to my post on the Fannie Farmer Cookbook for my full discussion.

When was this book published?

My copy of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book is missing the title page – including the publication date. About 5 years ago, I put myself into “sleuth mode” to figure out when it was published. My first guess was “1936”, but no, F. M. Farmer is listed as the author of Boston Cooking-School Cook Book editions only up to 1918 (Wikipedia, Boston Cooking-School Cook Book). Thus, my book is the 1896, 1906, or the 1918 edition.

To my amazement, Google/HathiTrust has full text digital versions of the1896, 1906, and 1918 editions online. Each page of each book was digitized and uploaded to the “cloud” so that nerds like me can read the entire book. I spent quite a bit of time perusing these fascinating books, searching for clues to match the printed edition in my hands to the proper edition year.

Brownies and War, I find, are enough to narrow down my edition. Brownies as we know them – chocolate-y bar cookies – were first made in the early 1900s:

“The earliest-known published recipes for a modern style chocolate brownie appeared in the Home Cookery (1904, Laconia, NH), Service Club Cook Book (1904, Chicago, IL), The Boston Globe (April 2, 1905 p. 34), and the 1906 edition of Farmer cookbook. These recipes produced a relatively mild and cake-like brownie.” (Wikipedia, accessed 2017)

My copy of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book has a recipe for chocolate brownies on page 495. That narrows my edition to 1906 or 1918.

A careful read of the 1918 edition showed me that it has several references to war-time recipes (The Big One, or as we know it now, World War II). Here is an example:

coffee and war

My copy does not have this same text in the coffee section. Therefore, I have the 1906 edition.

As extra confirmation, when I access Wikipedia today (2017) I find a Boston Cooking-School Cook Book entry. The entry lists the number of pages in each edition:

  • 1st edition, 1896. 567 pp.
  • 2nd edition, 1906. 648 pp.
  • 3rd edition, 1918. 656 pp.

My copy has 648 pages, and this concurs with my prior research.

Each of the editions had revisions, for instance, the 1906 version that I found digitized online is noted as revised in 1911. Since I am missing the very first pages, I can’t be certain which revision (or which printing year) of the 1906 edition I have.

First sections of this book

Below is the dedication page. It is no longer attached to the book. Note Ruth C. Vanderhoudt’s signature. As to the printed dedication, I like the phrase “scientific cookery”.

dedication page

The next page prints this quote from “Ruskin”, probably John Ruskin, a “writer, art critic, draughtsman, watercolourist, social thinker” in the nineteenth century. I really like this quote.


In her preface, Fanny Farmer writes: “During the last decade much time has been given by scientists to the study of foods and their dietetic value, and it is a subject which rightfully should demand much consideration from all. I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education. Then mankind will eat to live, will be able to do better mental and physical work, and disease will be less frequent.”

Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1906, is so special to me that I decide to go through the entire book. This may take a few weeks!

Chapter 1: Food

“Food is anything which nourishes the body.” I can tell from her discussion of the nutritive values of different foods shows that there was a good knowledge in 1906 of nutritive value of different types of foods. Listed are proteins (she spells protein “proteid”), carbohydrates, fats and oils, mineral matter, and water. The “daily average ration of an adult requires”:

4 1/2 oz. proteid
2 oz. fat
18 oz. starch
5 pints water

4.5 ounces of protein is 126 grams. My guess is that the protein value of a food is measured experimentally today, and her 4.5 ounces means a 4.5 ounce amount of a mostly-protein food, such as a steak.

The next sections of this chapter discuss water, salts, starch, sugar, gum, pectose, and cellulose, fats and oil, milk, butter, cheese, fruits, vegetable acids (acetic, tartaric, malic, citric, and oxalic), condiments (black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, capers [capers in the US in 1906!], and horseradish), and flavoring extracts (vanilla, almond, and lemon). I revel in the chemical knowledge of this early twentieth century woman:

“Starch is a white, glistening powder; it is largely distributed throughout the vegetable kingdom, being found most abundantly in cereals and potatoes.”

And then she give a chemical test for starch:

“A weak solution of iodine added to cold cooked starch gives an intense blue color.”

We used potassium-iodide test paper strips in the CU Organic Chemistry Teaching labs! I also like her comment on condiments:

“Condiments are not classed among foods, but are food adjuncts. They are made to stimulate the appetite by adding flavor to food.”

A big class of today’s “necessary nutrients” is not listed in this book: vitamins. What the heck, didn’t they know about vitamins in 1906? This here chemist is surprised to find that the first vitamin – vitamin A – was discovered in 1913. (Wikipedia, accessed 2017.) And this from my own blog on a 1928 cookbook describing “vitamines”: Salads, Vegetables and the Market Basket.

The book is illustrated with black and white photos. Here is the photo at the end of chapter 1:

black and white photo

Chapter 2: Cookery

“Cookery is the art of preparing food for the nourishment of the body. Prehistoric man may have lived on uncooked foods, but there are no savage races to-day who do not practise cookery in some way, however crude. Progress in civilization has been accompanied by progress in cookery.”

In 1906, cooking fuels included: kerosene, gas, wood, charcoal, and coal. (Gas ranges using piped gas were only limitedly available.) “Fire for cookery is confined in a stove or range, so that heat may be utilized and regulated.” “How to build a fire” is described in detail: Layer paper, small sticks or pine wood, hard wood, and then two shovelfuls of coal. Cover, and “strike with a match – sufficient friction is formed to burn the phosphorus, this in turn lights the sulphur, and the sulphur the wood – then aply the lighted match under the grate, and you have a fire.” The temperature of the fire is controlled with dampers.

Comment: Fannie Farmer really impresses me! She even tells us how matches work! As a woman career scientist, I love reading the work of women who came before me. I describe her writing style as “friendly scientific”.

The Cookery chapter continues ways of cooking, such as boiling, broiling, baking, braising, and frying. “How to bone a bird” and “how to measure”: teaspooons and tablespoons and measuring cups of regulation sizes were available, and she encourages their use: “Good judgment [sic], with experience, has haught some to maasure by sight; but the majority need definite guides.” Food is packed in ice to preserve it, or by a machine where compressed gas is cooled and then permitted to expand.” That’s a refrigerator she is describing. In 1906, many ways of preserving foods were used, including refrigeration, canning, sugar, drying, evaporation, salting, smoking, pickling, and packing in oil.

And more . . .

I have spent weeks on this already and have decided to publish the entry, but continue to add to it as time goes on. I have 50 more cookbooks to get through!


The recipe that I want to cook for this blog is Brownies. It seems appropriate, since my 1906 edition is the first one to print the recipe. Before that time, there were no brownies! Hard to imagine life without these goodies.

brownies recipeI made them pretty much like the recipe, except I didn’t line the pan with paraffine paper, I simply sprayed with cooking spray (with flour in it). A “square” of Baker’s chocolate is an ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate in todays packaging. A “slow oven” is explained in my oven temperature reference. They did not say how long to bake them! I baked them a little hotter than a “slow oven” at 350˚ for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick tested almost clean.