250 Cookbooks: Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook

Cookbook #222: Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook, Weight Watchers International, Nal Penguin, Inc., NY, 198.

Weight Watchers Quick and Easy CookbookThis is the second Weight Watchers book that I have covered in this blog, the other was Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook. In general, I like Weight Watchers. My best word is “sensible” for the eating plans. Weight Watchers’ plans of the 1980s espoused foods from the entire food pyramid, and taught dieters to watch their portions, learn the foods that have the most calories, and learn the foods that have the most nutrients. They help dieters learn how to eat and enjoy a balanced diet – a “normal” diet, not a “fad” diet – and this knowledge should help them beyond the initial strict dieting phase.

I found Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook a bit “weird” – read my post to find out why.

This Weight Watchers cookbook looks more promising. I immediately find a couple recipes I could cook for this blog. It is nicely laid out, with each page being a meal plan for one day (breakfast, lunch dinner, snacks) tucked in a column to the left, and a full recipe for one of those meal plan items on the right. As I scan the recipes, I realize that ingredients are pretty much what I already have in my pantry, so no special trips to the market to find an odd ingredient are needed. Below is a recipe I tried. It illustrated how the book is laid out.

Pork Fajita Pitas recipe

I like the large variety of fresh vegetables in the recipes. The chapters are organized by month of the year, so that you are able to use the fresh foods most abundant at the moment in the market. There are several full page color photos scattered throughout the book. And I like the way each recipe lists calories and exchanges (bread, milk, vegetable, protein, fat), kind of like the diabetic diet book I covered, The Calculating Cook.

One of the recipes I like is the “Swiss Chard Gnocchi”. It is reminescent of the dumplings of my recent blog post, the Cooking of Germany, but the Weight Watchers version incorporates a fresh vegetable (swiss chard) for a less-calorie higher-nutrient version of a dumpling. “Greek Vegetarian Pitas” include cucumber, bell pepper, fresh parsley, garbanzo beans, tahini, yogurt, mint, and feta cheese. Several recipes include kale and fennel. Muffins have raisins and freshly grated carrot. “Capered Turkey Amandine” calls for almonds, capers, and parsley. I’d like to try the “Apple Crisp with Graham Crackers”, since I am always looking for low calorie desserts, and I have lots of graham crackers at the moment, and have never thought of putting graham crackers on an apple crisp.

I like this too: almost all the main dish recipes are written for two people. So convenient for this retired couple.

I do note that most recipes lower the calorie content not only by portion size, but by including less fat. For instance, when I compare my own muffin recipe with the muffin recipes in Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook, I find mine have more fat and less sugar for the same total calorie amount. This is so very common in the low-fat diet trend of the late twentieth century. (The Big Fat Surprise kind of turned my own ideas about fats entirely around.)

I marked one recipe as tried, the “Pork Fajita Pitas”.

I like this cook book well enough to keep it. For this blog, I’ll make the “Chicken ‘n’ Noodles Amandine”.

Chicken Noodles Amandine recipe

As I look over the recipe ingredients, I recall this about Weight Watcher recipes: they can be a bit nutty about the amounts of each ingredient. Of course, they are listing nutrient values per recipe, so that will only work if the cook carefully measures everything. For example, the directions say to “divide a tablespoon of margarine”, using 1 teaspoon for toasting the almonds and two teaspoons for frying the chicken. “1/4 ounce” of almonds is about a tablespoon (I weighed them and then volume-measured them).”1/2 teaspoon flour” is not going to thicken the sauce, in my opinion, and 1/2 teaspoon of flour only has 5 calories. So I’ll splurge and use a tablespoon, for a huge 37 calories. “1/2 packet” of instant chicken broth and seasoning mix? I don’t have that, so I’ll just use salt and pepper. I am to use “1 cup of cooked noodles”. (Who likes to measure cooked noodles anyway?) That is not very helpful, what I need to know is how many dry noodles to cook. From references, I find that:

  • 1 cup of cooked noodles has 210 calories
  • 1 ounce of dry pasta has 100 calories

Thus, I would weigh out 2 ounces of dry noodles for about 200 calories. I know how much pasta we like: in general, I weigh out 3-4 ounces of dry pastas like spaghetti and penne for the two of us.

I used one big boneless chicken breast, about 12 ounces, and cut it in two horizontally, and pounded it a tiny bit to flatten it. Two people can be a guy and a girl, so sometimes portion sizes have to be nudged.

Below is my version of the recipe. It may have more calories than the printed version.

Chicken Noodles Amandine
serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
  • boneless chicken breast, 8-12 ounces (use 2 chicken cutlets, or slice a whole boneless chicken breast into two pieces)
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup diagonally sliced green onions (I used green onions and some leek too)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (or more, if you want; I actually used half yogurt and half sour cream)
  • salt and pepper
  • cooked noodles (cook 3 ounces dry pasta)

Toast the almonds in a dry, non-stick pan until golden. Set aside.

Saute the chicken breasts in a skillet in a bit of hot olive oil. When both sides of the chicken are browned (about 3 minutes per side), remove them from the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, melt the tablespoon of butter. Saute the mushrooms and green onions until tender-crisp, then sprinkle the flour over them and stir. Gradually stir in the water (or stock). Stir in the sour cream and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to low, and add back the chicken. Simmer about 5-10 minutes, until all is hot. Serve over noodles and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Here are the chicken breasts in the pan, ready to be served:

cooking the chickenAnd our plated meal:

Chicken Noodles Amandine

These were tasty and very easy to make. The sauce was a bit thin for our tastes; next time I would add more than a tablespoon of flour. But all-in-all, a success!

250 Cookbooks: Cooking of Germany

Cookbook #221: Cooking of Germany, Nika Standen Hazelton and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, NY, 1969. Foods of the World series; revised 1973, reprinted 1974.

Cooking of Germany cookbookThis is the fifth and last book that I own in the Foods of the World series. Once again, I look forward to discovering another interesting author as I open Cooking of Germany, just as I discovered M. F. K. Fisher in the Cooking of Provinvial France, Emily Hahn in the Cooking of China, Joseph Wechsberg in Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, and Rafael Steinberg in the Cooking of Japan.

Nika Standen Hazelton is the author, and who is she? Let’s see what I can find. She was born in 1908, in Rome; her father was a German diplomat. She studied at the London School of Economics and began a career as a European journalist at the young age of 22, in 1930. In 1940, she emigrated to the US with her husband.

In the States, she started writing cookbooks. Her obituary states she authored 30 cookbooks, and also “was a frequent contributer to the major food magazines and for several decades wrote a column about food, wine and travel for The National Review“.  Her writing style wove memoirs into her recipes, and several of her books remain cookbook standards. Her attitude towards cooking is described as “no-nonsense”. “Searching for Nika Hazelton, the no-nonsense cook” is a delightful 2011 blog entry by Sandra Lee. I chuckled several times at Sandra’s descriptions of this apparently full-of-attitude author.

So I am a bit abashed that I was ignorant of Nika Hazelton’s writing. She belongs among the other important woman authors of food articles and books in the twentieth century, alongside M. F. K. Fisher and Emily Hahn. (And why did I not read and appreciate these female authors of the Foods of the World series when I first received the books in the mail? I have no good answer.)

Nika Hazelton begins the introduction with “when I began to think about this book, I was puzzled . . . should the book be aboutt he cooking of present-day Germany? Should it be about the cooking I grew up with between World Wars I and II? . . . each approach could be illuminating, and each had its drawbacks.” Here is the paragraph that follows these thoughts – note her philosophical tone:

page 6

Her musings continue. “Why write about a bygone age? The Germany of those days is gone forever – and good riddance to it.”

This paragraph describes her decision for the book’s focus:page 6page 7

And:

“As in any cookbook, some readers will miss their own favorites, or question ingredients or techniques that went into making a typical dish. I can only remind them that no book is all-inclusive, and that most traditional dishes of any country come in almost as many versions as there are cooks. This is an asset rather than a fault, for it gives room for pleasant speculation on the whys and wherefores of a dish – pleasant speculation, because food and cooking are pleasant and comforting in themselves.”

“Food and cooking are pleasant and comforting in themselves.” A woman after my own heart.

The introduction is followed by the first chapter: “Surprises of the German Table”. Nika Hazelton writes that the tourist (of the late 1960s) might expect to find a Germany filled with the music of Bach and Beethoven, castles perched high above the Rhine, and Hansel-and-Gretel towns nestled in dark forests. Meals would be a long succession of sausages and sauerkraut followed by sauerbraten and dumplings served with great steins of beer “hoisted by hefty maidens”. But in reality, the tourist would fly in jets over the Rhine castles, and “The Gretels are miniskirted, the Hansels long-haired, and they sway to rock ‘n’ roll in the automobile-choked streets of their age-old towns.” Those automobiles would be Volkswagens. The tourist would find all the expected dishes, but they will be different in flavor and in an incredible variety of forms. And food is sold in “supermoden supermarkets”, offering foods “premixed, freeze-dried, precooked, and, of course, temptingly packaged for impulse buying, along with fresh foods from the world over.”

Here she describes why she thinks Americans are so comfortable with German food:

Cooking of GermanyThis book has wonderful full-page photographs. The photographer was German-born Ralph Crane, who worked for the NY Times as well as Time-Life books. Here is an example of the full-page photos in this book:

Cooking of Germany

The second chapter is “How to Eat Five meals a Day”. I turn to a photo of a man in suit and tie, his wife in dark sweater and trousers. They sit at a table, under an elegant chandelier, complete with candles, flowers, and fancy dishware. She is feeding a bite of her food to the family dachshund. The photo caption tells us they are “dining informally at home”. Oh yes. Informal. (You should see my informal.)

The five-meals-a-day chapter exemplifies Nika Hazelton’s character as she describes not only the food, but the people and the traditions of German cooking. She takes us through a day in the life of a German in the mid-twentieth century, weaving the hours with people coming together and enjoying food, and compares the experiences of Germans today with those of yesteryears.

This paragraph exemplifies the chapter’s tone:

Cooking of Germany

She mentions the grape harvest:

“Incidentally, for those who think that grape harvesting is romantic, with maidens in dirndls wearing Bacchic wreaths in their hair, I have news. Grape pickers wear jeans, sweaters and high rubber boots. The pretty dresses and stupendous beehive hairdos come later, at the Winzerfeste, or local vintners’ fêtes, where the merriment is astonishing indeed.”

At the end of the second (and each) chapter are recipes. Katerfisch, or “Fish for a Hangover” with tomato sauce and pickles, and Röllmopse, or “Rollmops”, are herring rolls filled with onion and pickle, “prized as a pick-me-up on a morning after”. Ah, those Germans.

Chapter 3 is “The Pleasures of Eating Out”. Here is an example:

Cooking of Germany

Chapter 4 is “Old and New Ways of Party Giving”. Again, an example:

Cooking of GermanyCooking of Germany

Nika Hazelton ties her own past with her own present:

Cooking of GermanyThe flavor and of the Cooking of Germany continues to the end of the book. The next chapters are “A Cooking History 2,000 Years Old”, “The Northern Style: Cold-Climate Cuisine”, “The Central Style: Rich and Filling”, “The Southern Style: A lighter Touch”, “Baking Raised to a Fine Art”, and “Festive Revelry and Nostalgic Holidays”. Here are a few thoughts about these chapters.

  • There is a great photo of a potato on page 134. I learn that potatoes are a new world vegetable, and of all the Europeans, Germans were the last import them. Today, potatoes are called “The King” of German vegetables and are used for Schnaps (an alcoholic beverage), dessert dumplings, hot potato salad, potato pancakes, potato soup, and potato dumplings, among other dishes.
  • One of my favorite pages is the photo on page 154 of 26 different kinds of German wursts (sausages). “Everybody rejoices when November kills its pig” is the title of a photo caption.
  • I enjoy the “Baking Raised to a Fine Art” chapter. Wonderful photos of German yeast breads. Photos of desserts, fancy and rich, like the gingerbread house on the cover of the book.

Cooking of GermanyCooking of Germany

Need to mention

I find the recipe instructions in the hard cover and in the accompanying spiral bound booklet very well written. The “late Michael Field suprervised the adapting and writing of recipes for this book. One of America’s foremost food experts and culinary teachers, he wrote many articles for leading magazines.”

Another of the team that put together the Cooking of Germany is the consultant:

Cooking of Germany

As you can see, the consultant was Irma Rhode. Born in 1900, she earned PhD in chemistry. I can imagine that she was the only female in her classes. Heck, I was one of the few women taking chemistry in the 1960s!

Rouladen for dinner

Time to get cooking! I pick up the spiral-bound book of recipes that accompanies the hardcover. I decide to make Rouladen for this blog. These are beef rolls, and the recipe suggests to serve them with spatzle (see scan below)). I’ve made Rouladen before but wow, how long ago was that! We both remember this dish but can’t remember the last time I made it and I can’t figure out why I haven’t made it since.

Rouladen recipeAs suggested in the recipe, I’ll serve it with a little Red Cabbage with Apples.

red cabbage recipe

The rouladen recipe also suggests dumplings or spätzle, but I am going to cheat and use convenient potato dumplings, or gnocchi, sold these days in America as a shelf-stable pasta product. Below is the Cooking of Germany recipe for spätzle. You can see I used this recipe booklet, by the sticky pages at spätzle. I love spätzle! But they take a bit of time to make. (Someday I’ll make them again!)

dumplings pages

I modified the rouladen recipe a bit: I increased the onions, leeks, and parsnip in the cooking liquid, and I added some pepper. I made the sauce a bit differently, as described in my version of the recipe, below.

Braised Stuffed Beef Rolls (Rouladen)
serves 2

  • 1 pound thin sirloin (or top round) steak (my local market sells thin sirloin as “petite sirloin”)
  • 2 teaspoons mustard (I used a brown mustard with seeds, but any type would work)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 slices bacon, each about 8 inches long
  • 1 whole dill pickle, cut lengthwise into halves
  • 1 tablespoon lard (or use butter)
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced leeks, white part only
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsnip (optional; or substitute a carrot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 big sprig of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Pound the steak until it is 1/4 inch thick. (I put it in a ziplock bag and pounded with a mallet.) If you are using a single piece of round steak or sirloin steak, cut it into two rectangular pieces about 4 inches wide and 8 inches long after pounding. I found that the petite sirloin steaks worked perfectly, as they were sold already the perfect size for this dish.

Spread each rectangle with a teaspoon of mustard, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of onions (save the remaining onions for later). Place a piece of bacon lengthwise down the center. Lay a dill pickle half across the narrow end of each piece and beginning at the pickle end, roll the meat around it, jelly-roll fashion, into a cylinder. Tie the rolls at each end with kitchen cord.

BeefRolls layoutBeefRolls rolledChoose a deep skillet with a heavy lid. I used my old cast-iron stewing pot; a LeCreuset or any heavy cooking pan or pot or skillet would work. Heat the skillet over moderate heat; add the lard (or butter) and heat until it begins to splutter. Add the beef rolls, and brown them on all sides, regulating the heat so they color quickly and evenly without burning. Transfer the rolls to a plate and set aside.

Add the celery, leeks, parsnip, remaining onion, and salt and pepper to the skillet and cook and stir a minute or two to soften the vegetables. Add the water and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping in any brown particles clinging to the bottom and sides of the pan. Add the parsley. Turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Monitor the pot for awhile: you want a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for an hour or so, turning the rolls once or twice.

Remove the rolls from the pot and cover with foil to keep them from drying out while you make the sauce.

Let the sauce cool awhile in the pot, then scoop the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon. Pour the liquid into a gravy separator. Alternatively, if your gravy separator has a strainer-type top, pour the entire contents of the pot through the strainer into the separator. You want these cooked vegetables! Save them!

When the fat has separated from the water layer, pour the water layer into a blender or food processor, or better yet, into the cylindric container that comes with an immersion blender. Add the saved cooked veggies to the liquid, and blend or process or use an immersion blender to homogenize the mixture.

Meanwhile, melt the tablespoon of butter in the skillet until it is foaming, then slowly add the 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly. When all the flour is incorporated, stir a minute or two more, but do not let it burn. Then, slowly and with constant stirring, add the blended broth-vegetable mixture. When it is nicely thickened and bubbly, add the beef rolls, cover the pot, and heat 5-10 minutes to get the rolls to serving temperature.

BeefRolls platedThese were delicious! The gravy was amazing, thick and full of flavor. The pickle inside was fun. These remind us of one of our favorite meals, called “little piggies” by my husband’s family. It’s still about his favorite meal  – strips of bacon on strips of round steak, rolled and secured with a toothpick, cooked in a skillet and served over mashed potatoes with gravy. I like the rouladen as made above with tender sirloin steak, because there is less fuss in preparation, and the de-fatted gravy isn’t greasy.

250 Cookbooks: Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes

Cookbook #220: Original SchlemmerTopf® Recipes, Scheurich, circa 2009.

Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes cookbookA “Schlemmertopf” is a covered clay baking pot. I wrote a lot of material on clay pots in Römertopf Cooking is Fun, and more in Original Schlemmertopf Recipes, so I won’t repeat that information here.

Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes is the instruction and recipe booklet that came with my current SchlemmerTopf. I bought this clay pot in 2009 (plus or minus a year or two) to bake no-knead breads. The back cover of Original SchlemmerTopf Recipes states that Reston Lloyd Ltd. is the exclusive US and Canada distributor for SchlemmerTopf. They suggest: “Visit our Web Site: www.restonlloyd.com” – so I did, and found that currently Reston Lloyd  offers only the Romertopf® brand of covered clay baking pots.

The bottom section of my SchlemmerTopf® is glazed; the top section is not. This makes it a lot easier to clean than the first clay pot I had. The unglazed top section needs to be soaked in water for about 10 minutes before use. After filling the bottom of the pot with recipe ingredients, the top is added, and the SchlemmerTopf® is put in a cold oven. Only then is the oven turned on, usually to a high temperature, like 425-475˚.

And yes, my last two experiences with clay pot recipes for this blog were very successful! I need to remember to use this pot more often, and no only for baking bread!

Here is the instruction page:

schlemmertopf instructionsAnd Six Golden Rules:

6 golden rulesThe first 23 pages of this booklet is written in English, then (as far as I can tell) the same instructions and recipes are written in Spanish and then in French. Example recipes are stuffed flank steak, beef stew, meat loaf, beef cabbage rolls, roast beef, chicken shanghai (I made this for another blog entry), chicken paprika, turkey curry, roast game hens, roast duck, and roast salmon. I find these recipes are helpful because they illustrate how to bake a variety of foods in the SchlemmerTopf. But, they are not very inspiring.

Hmmm, shall I keep this small booklet? For a while. But I know I could live without it.

For this blog I decide to make the Roast Beef. Largely because I have a small roast in the freezer!

Roast Beef recipeMy roast is only about a pound and a half, so I will cut the recipe in half. Note how the recipe (above) does not state what cut of beef to use, nor does it tell me if the potatoes, carrots, and onions are to be peeled or chopped. It does direct the cook to cut the celery in “2-inch pieces”. I decided to peel and cut in half the potatoes, carrrots, and onions.

SchlemmerTopf® Roast Beef
serves 2, with leftovers for sandwiches

  • beef roast, about 2 pounds (I used a bottom round roast)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 onions, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 stalk of celery cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf

Soak the lid of the SchlemmerTopf® in cold water for at least 10 minutes.

Season the roast with salt and pepper and place in the base of the SchlemmerTopf®. Add the vegetables around the roast, then put the parsley and bay leaf on top.

Cover the SchlemmerTopf®.

Place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 425˚ and bake for 2 hours. Feel free to open the lid and check for doneness at any time, it won’t affect the baking.

Here is the beef and vegetables, ready to go in the oven.

clay pot roast

And here is the finished roast.

clay pot roastThis was good. The potatoes were nicely browned and not mushy inside. I liked the onions too – browned and soft and perfect. I wasn’t able to make a gravy, so I served it with ketchup. (I liked the Römertopf Pot Roast that I made when I covered Römertopf Cooking is Fun. For that pot roast, I used a cross rib roast, lots more seasonings, and was able to make a gravy.)

The leftover beef from this Beef Roast recipe was great the next day, sliced thin in sandwiches. So I’d say the recipe was a success!

250 Cookbooks: McCall’s Cook Book

Cookbook #219: McCall’s Cook Book, by the Food Editors of McCall’s, McCall Corporation and Random House Inc., 8th printing, NY, 1963.

McCalls Cook BookThis treasure is my mother’s copy of my book of the same name, as covered in my 2016 blog post. The cover on her book is yellow, and mine green. She took better care of her copy – didn’t have to tape the back binding together.

Inside the front cover, she scotch-taped several bits of useful information. One is a newspaper clipping from a Q/A article on can sizes. In the early twentieth century, cans were sold by sizes “No. 2, No. 10, No. 203” etc. Her clipping translates those values into weight and volume values. (Of course, nowadays we just google for an answer.) She also clipped  a table of weights and measures for fruits and nuts, and a table of food volumes before and after cooking. And tucked in with these tables is a “how much equals how much?” for fruits and vegetables.

Yup, she used this cookbook as a reference. I remember that she always put the exact amount of each ingredient called for in a recipe. If she had a couple tablespoons from a can of olives left over after measuring, those olives did not go into the bowl.

Mother inscribed these words on the page opposite the title page:

McCalls inscription

I page through the book looking for more of her notes. I come to the Quick Breads chapter, which begins:

“It’s hard to buy these sweet breads, so if you want to serve them, you’ll have to make them. Use them when you entertain, particularly at afternoon teas or luncheons when a fruit salad is the main course.”

Today we can buy quick breads in coffee shops and markets. Like banana bread. Mother marked “Banana Bread” in her edition of McCalls Cook Book.

banana nut bread and date nut breadI have about 3 or 4 banana bread recipes – I rotate through different versions, but most of my recipes call for vegetable oil – this one uses butter or margarine instead. Might be interesting to try. Seems I often have ripe bananas to use up!

The next recipe she marked is for “Perfect Muffins”. I like the introduction to muffns: “These are absurdly easy to make. What is known as the ‘muffin method’ – that is, adding all the liquid ingredients to all the dry – is often used for other quick breads and for simple cakes, as well.” Perfect Muffins is a basic recipe that can be modified – eight different suggestions are listed on the following pages. I like the way she circled “11” on the number of muffins to make; she also changed the baking time and temperature.

Perfect Muffins recipe

I continue paging through. My goodness, her book is in such better condition than mine! She put a red check but no comments next to a recipe for sour cream in pancakes – I’d like sour cream in pancakes too. The recipe pages for “McCalls Basic White Bread”, a yeast bread, look well used. She thought the Honey-Whole-Wheat Bread was delicious. Mother must have made homemade pizza, although I never remember her cooking it. She liked the McCalls recipe for homemade crust. Plus, she tucked several magazine-clipped recipes for pizza sauce inside the book. These sauce recipes are similar to the ones I found on SeriousEats a few weeks ago.

She thought the Old-Fashioned Applesauce Cake was “delicious”. I’ve used this recipe too; I sometimes made this cake into cupcakes, too. In fact, I think I’ll make it again soon, it is a very good cake. Especially with icing! Peanut Butter Pinwheels sound really, really good (she marked them “delicious”). I never remember having one of these cookies: a peanut butter dough rolled out, spread with chocolate, rolled into a log, sliced into cookies.

PeanutButterPinwheelsOn the recipe Chili Con Carne in Red Wine, she commented it was “Pretty good, kinda runny”. I think she served it with the suggested Polenta Squares, a recipe later in the book, because she commented at the polenta squares “Good – I like it”. This makes me chuckle. I too like tomato-based sauces over polenta. I just discovered home-cooked polenta a few years ago. My dining partner sort of likes it, and I can imagine my father felt the same way. So her “Good – I like it” is a sort of rebellion. (I had no idea she ever tried a polenta dish.) She liked the deep fried Corn Fritters, but thought the Chili Con Carne only “fair”.

Now we get to desserts. Looks like she tried the Chocolate Roll with Mocha Filling. Not enough filling, she wrote, and suggested to double the recipe. She thought the French Apple Cobbler “delicious!”.

In the Eggs, Omelets and Souffles chapter, she tried the Scrambled Eggs a la Suisse and thought them “pretty good – but not great”. This is a brunch egg dish. I had another surprise when I found that she made and liked the cheese souffle. Just like pizza, I never remember her making souffles. Eggs Benedict get a “delicious”.

Pickled beets get a “delicious”, and Rolled, Stuffed Flank Steak gets a “delicious!” written in red and underlined. She made some changes in the Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe.

The Pies and Small Pastries chapter comes next. Why it is not with the “Dessert” chapter reminds me that this cookbook has an odd organization (I noted this when I covered my own copy). She tried the Fresh Apricot Pie and has notes on the number and size of apricots she used, plus a note that she cut them in quarters instead of slicing.

In Salads and Salad Dressings, she liked the Raw-Spinach Salad. In the Sandwich and Sandwich Filling chapter, she thought the Hot Crabmeat-Salad Sandwiches “just so-so”. In Sauces and Gravies, she marked “Mock Hollandaise Sauce” as “very good”. This sauce is used for Eggs Benedict in an earlier chapter. In Vegetables and Potatoes, Eggplant-and-Tomato Casserole is marked “very good” and “Paul likes”. She liked Amelia’s Potato Pancakes and Honey-Spice Acorn Squash. And in the Leftoverschapter, Pork Chop Suey is marked “Very good”, and she adds “Serve with dry Chinese noodles”.

This brings me to the end of the book, and all of the recipes she marked. I certainly enjoyed going through this cookbook of hers. Brought back lots of memories.

And now, what to make for this blog? I decide on the “Perfect Muffins” (a scan of the recipe is above). I make a lot of muffins, but don’t pay exact attention to the proportions of flour, sugar, liquid, and shortening. Perfect Muffins gives just that: correct proportions. You could use this recipe to make any flavor of muffin – though I doubt it will work when large amounts of wet fruits (like bananas or apples) or vegetables (like carrots or sweet potatoes) are added. But if you want to add dried blueberries, or maraschino cherries, or nuts or spices, or some other interesting ingredient that catches your eye, Perfect Muffins is a great start. I consider it part of my ever-growing knowledge of muffin making.

I choose the variation of Perfect Muffins that adds raisins and oranges. I made them just like the recipe, except I took Mother’s advice and used her altered baking temperature and time.

Perfect Muffins with Raisins and Orange
makes 11

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and raisins in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil, egg, and orange peel; whisk to combine.

“Make a well” in center of flour mixure (I rarely “make a well”, but this is the way the traditional directions for combining wet and dry ingredients read). Pour in milk mixture all at once, stir quickly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix! Batter will be lumpy.

Fill muffin cups just slightly more than half full.

Bake at 375˚ for 20 minutes, or until they test done with a toothpick.

Basic Muffins with Raisins and OrangeThese muffins are cake-like, or cupcake-like. The muffins I make are usually packed with bananas or apples or carrots, or whole grains, so to us, they tasted “less-healthy-than-usual”. Although, after my first bite of one of these muffins, I just wanted . . .  more!