250 Cookbooks: Menu Magic in a Nutshell

Cookbook #170: Menu Magic in a Nutshell, Diamond Walnuts, California Walnut Growers Association, 1950.

Menu Magic Diamond Walnuts cookbook

I have to admit something: the photo above is not mine. The cover on my booklet is missing, but I found the above photo online. This booklet is currently sold on the Etsy site for $12. The seller claims the book was published in 1950, and authored by cook(s) at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Who buys these old booklets? Vintage books are used in scrapbooking or decoupage. Or maybe someone lost their old copy, or simply like walnut recipes!

My mother liked walnuts This was her booklet, and I think she used it a lot. You can see how beat up the first page is:

Menu Magic in a Nutshell

It’s fun to read, isn’t it? Note it refers to the name “Diamond” branded on each nutshell. It took me a moment to remember: walnuts used to be available only in the shell. We used to spend hours shelling walnuts for Mother. In California, you could even pick your own walnuts off the trees, still in the soft skin that covered the hard shell. One birthday or Mother’s Day, us kids picked a whole bunch and shelled them all for Mother. By the time they were shelled and wrapped as a present and opened on the special day, the entire lot was wormy. Boy, that’s an old memory.

Today I buy shelled walnuts in bulk or bags. I always have some in the freezer, ready to add to muffins and breads, salads and desserts.

Let’s see what this vintage cookbook has to offer. Mixed Fruit and Walnut Salad has pineapple, dates, orange, banana, grapes, and walnuts, and is served over lettuce. Sounds pretty good to me. Diamond Chicken Salad adds walnuts to chicken, celery and mayonnaise salad. Yummy. There are several molded salads that were so popular in the 50s and 60s. Desserts are next: Brown Betty, Apple Walnut Tapioca, Raisin Walnut Pie, Walnut Peach Shortcake, Apricot Caramel Shortcake, Danish Apple Pudding, and Apple Crumb Pie all sound good. Mother marked “Prune Whip” as “good“. (Prune Whip is a meringue dessert with stewed prunes and walnuts.) She also liked Walnut Sticks, a bar cookie made with brown sugar, eggs, and walnuts. Just about all of the cookies and cakes look good to me!

Main courses? You can include walnuts with apples and sweet potatoes, or walnuts in turkey dressing, or in meatballs. The meatless walnut loaves do not appeal to me, though. Finally, candies: Divinity (Mother marked it “good”), Uncooked Fudge, and Sugared Walnuts. Looks like I’m missing pages 23-30. Sad, because the index tells me those pages included the bread recipes.

Well, I guess I’m going to have to keep this little “cookbook”. Maybe I’ll find the rest of this booklet someday.

For this blog, I choose to make Ice Box Cookies. I like refrigerator cookies because I can always have them on hand to bake up fresh, and I can bake just a few at a time. Mother marked this recipe with her notes, so I know they are “Good”!

Ice Box Cookies recipe

I like brown sugar, so I am going to up the amount of brown sugar and decrease the amount of white sugar. Mother noted, and then crossed out, that there is too much flour in this recipe. I’ll add the flour very gradually and use the mixer to combine it in.

Ice Box Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream the shortening and sugars for several minutes. Add the egg and beat in well. Mix in the walnuts and vanilla.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add gradually to the creamed mixture. (Do not add all of the flour mixture if the dough no longer holds together.) Remove from the mixing bowl and, with your hands, press the dough into one solid mass, then form it into a couple 1 1/2-inch logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 48 hours.

Cut into 1/8-inch slices and bake 7 minutes at 425˚.


My dough was too dry. I should have paid attention to my mother’s first note. In Colorado, I know from long experience that flour is very dry here. Next time I’ll use 1/4 cup less flour, though. They were kind of crumbly to slice before baking.

But are they good?

Ice Box CookiesYes! These are sweet, crisp, and tasty. I had one, and wanted more!

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