Ah… those thrilling days of yesteryear… or were they?!? Answer in a minute…

Since I had updated the TJ Recipe site, I thought I’d do a bit of an update on Flour Power and Mom’s Cookbooks, as well to give the sites a bit of a more uniform look. The only issue was Mom’s Cookbooks used a different theme than the other two.

In order for Mom’s site to have the same general look, I needed to install a new theme and redo most of the 1038 pages individually – a lot of repetitive work. These sites have all been around in various configurations, on different urls, and different formats since at least 2005. It was time to get them all together and more easily updatable.

The fun thing about it was actually revisiting all of those recipes!

I collect recipes the way my mom did – not necessarily to make the dish, but to get an idea of what to do. It was unusual for her – or me, for that matter – to actually make a recipe completely as written. They’re concepts, not absolutes.

Some of the recipes brought back memories. Some of the recipes sounded completely gawd-awful. Some were intriguing…

I thought it would be fun to actually make a complete dinner using only recipes from the book.

Enter Phoebe, Nancy, and Victor as my trusting dinner guests…

I chose five recipes – an appetizer, a protein, a potato, a vegetable, and a dessert – very ’60s meal planning. Of the five, I had only had one of them, before – and only a very vague recollection of it. The others just sounded interesting. Not wanting to throw a modem spin on anything, I actually made them pretty much as written. I did use actual sherry in place of the Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine. I have my standards, low as they may be.

First was a Party Cheese Ball.

Party Cheese Ball

  • 2 8 oz pkg cream cheese
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar
  • 1 tbsp pimento
  • 1 tbsp chopped green pepper
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch cayenne
  • pinch salt
  • finely chopped pecans

Mix all ingredients until well blended. Chill.
Shape into ball and roll in nuts.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of my creation, but it pretty much looked like the picture – and it really tasted great. It was no-brainer simple to make and I could see it becoming a regular family-gathering treat. We served it with Ritz Crackers, Saltines, Chicken in a Biskit crackers, and Triscuits.

We also had Lipton’s Onion Dip, and Mixed Nuts, because those were always constants at our house growing up.

**NOTE: Chicken in a Biskit crackers suck.

Next up was Chicken Parisienne.

Chicken Parisienne

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 3/4 cup sherry

Season breasts with salt & pepper.

Melt butter in skillet and brown chicken on both sides.

Arrange chicken, onions, and mushrooms in baking dish.

Mix sour cream, soup, and sherry in a bowl.

Pour over chicken.

Bake at 400°F for 40 minutes.

This one sounded intriguing, but I do have to admit it was about as French as I am – and definitely didn’t live up to it’s supposed Parisienne roots. I’m guessing that the only reason it was called Parisienne was because it had a sauce.

The concept wasn’t bad, but the execution was wrong. It would have made a better dish if the chicken breasts and sauce were cooked separately with the sauce poured over the chicken at serving. Being baked in the oven, the sauce consistency was uneven and the chicken stringy.

Flavor-wise it was okay. Not great, but okay.  The concept has promise, but I probably won’t be making it, again, any time soon.

Next we had Vaughan’s Potatoes.

Vaughan’s Potatoes

  • 3 potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 1 lb)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onion
  • 1/2 pcket onion soup mix
  • pinch pepper
  • dash Tabasco
  • milk
  • egg
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes

Cook potatoes until tender. Drain and mash.

Stir in parmesan cheese, cream cheese, butter, green onion, onion soup mix, and Tabasco. Add 1-2 tbsp milk if it appears dry. Shape into 8 balls.

Dip in beaten egg and then roll in cornflakes. Place on baking sheet and bake at 400° about 15 minutes, or until hot and crisp.

I have no idea who Vaughan is or was – but I loved their potatoes! They are definitely something I could see making, again.

I made them pretty much as described, but used a bit more than a pound of potatoes – my two russets weighed more than their three 1960s counterparts.

I riced the potatoes to make them completely smooth and then mixed everything in by hand. Very easy.

The potatoes were a bit loose – definitely not add more milk if dry – so I formed then into balls using an ice cream scoop and then refrigerated them to firm up. It was really easy to roll the refrigerated balls, dip into the egg, and roll in the crumbs.

They were fun – a nice, crispy exterior and a smooth, flavorful interior. Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix, potatoes, and corn flakes… Who woulda thunk?!? Thanks, Vaughan!

And then we had Guess-Again Carrots.

Guess-Again Carrots

  • 2 pounds Carrots
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • 8 oz shredded Cheddar
  • 2 eggs
  • sm chopped pepper
  • Tabasco
  • pinch nutmeg
  • Parsley
  • Bread crumbs

Peel, slice, and boil carrots until tender. Mash well.

Add butter, onion, eggs, cheese, milk, hot sauce, and nutmeg,

Place in a buttered quart casserole. Top with chopped peppers and buttered bread crumbs.

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

This was the only dish I had a vague recollection of – and the recipe made enough for several armies – not a dinner for 4. I could have halved it and still had leftovers.

They were not bad. My Mom completely changed the recipe around – how unusual – so I have no idea what the original would have been, but, overall, they were not bad.

They were silky-smooth and the crumbs added a nice contrasting texture.

The concept would also work with butternut squash, pumpkin…

Naturally, we had to have dessert – and also naturally – my first thought was to something really ooey and gooey. Mom was a dessert queen. Her original dessert binder was twice as thick as the binder holding all the other recipes. Gee… I wonder where I get my sweet tooth from?!?

But.. after the above meal, I knew my 71 year old over-weight metabolism would not be happy. My taste-buds would, but I’d pay for it.

Instead, we went with Peanut Cookies.

Peanut Cookies

  • 8 oz butter, softened
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup – packed – brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups ap flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 oz peanuts
  • chopped peanuts for garnish

Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and peanut butter. Gradually add sugars.

Add eggs one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and beat until well-blended. Mix in peanuts.

Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and top with crushed peanuts. Bake 12-15 minutes or until brown.

I do not actually remember these particular cookies from my childhood, but that really doesn’t mean I never had them. My mother made so many different cookies, cakes, pies, and other desserts – we actually had some sort of dessert every night – that they all just blend and fade into sweet memories.

That being said – these cookies are dangerous! The perfect two-bite treat!

They were soft but not cake-like. Fully-baked – not under-done like designer cookies of today. A good but not overpowering peanut flavor, good crunch, and not too sweet. The perfect cookie, in my not so humble opinion.

A perfect end to a fun meal with excellent company.

The recipe states 6 dozen cookies dropped by rounded teaspoons. I got 8 dozen cookies using a #60 scoop.

So… gastronomically speaking, were those thrilling days of yesteryear really thrilling?

A resounding yes, no, and maybe.

Let’s face it… tastes change. When my Mom was making these things – or at least collecting the recipes – avocados were exotic, fresh strawberries were only available in summer, chicken was expensive and bone-in, beef was cheap, pork had fat, and watermelons had seeds.

Every one of those things is different, today. We didn’t have access to the ethnic foods and exotic spices we see in supermarkets, today. Fresh produce was local – canned and frozen reigned supreme.

We have access to so many different ingredients, today, that using a can of condensed soup as the base for a sauce seems rather low-brow. But adding sour cream and sherry – even if it was Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine – elevated it to a company meal.

I grew up with a mother who loved to experiment in the kitchen. I think it was part of her escape mechanism from dealing with six kids. She could let her mind wander and creative juices flow in-between changing diapers and stopping brawls in the living room.

Some of her meals were home runs, most definitely got on base, and, once in a while, there were strike-outs, but her batting average made Ty Cobb look like a loser.

And I was definitely a benefactor of it. It paved my way into the kitchen.

For lunch, today, I made a sliced ham and cheese ball sandwich.

Mom would be proud.