Christmas Baking

Friends often give me their parents’ cookbooks, knowing that I will love any cookbooks that pre-date the 1960s. I recently was given a gold mine of early cookbooks by my friend Anne whose mother passed away last year.  My heart was racing as I loaded up the car knowing I’d have many hours of fun reading these gems.

But the most intriguing to me was a newsletter called Cook and Tell mainly from the 1980s-1990s and a bit into the early part of this century. The newsletter was the brain child of Karyl Bannister whose address on Love Cove, Southport, Maine gives you an idea of the hominess of the newsletter.

Karyl wrote her newsletter long before the rage for food blogging. She writes about her newsletter that it “is dedicated to fun in the kitchen. I think food should be reasonably wholesome and taste good.” And indeed all the recipes are super simple and those I’ve tried so far are excellent, though many are too heavy with sour cream and cream cheese as was popular during this time period.

Karyl’s other main attribute is that she’s an excellent writer. Her monthly letters immediately pull you into her quiet life filled with cooking on the coast of Maine. After reading many of the newsletters, I feel as if I know Karyl and her family.

Here are three Christmas desserts all of which came out splendidly.

Apple Cranberry Crisp

  • 4 medium-sized apples, peeled, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • 3/4 c. chopped walnuts

Toss apples and cranberries with sugar, flour and cinnamon in a 2-quart baking dish

Make the topping by combining flour and sugar

Cut in the butter

Stir in oats and nuts

Strew this topping mixture over the apple mixture

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour in a 350 degree oven (the dish should be bubbly and golden brown)

She suggested serving with vanilla ice cream or cream

This receipe is from the Oct. 1998 issue.

Eggnog Muffins

  • 3 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c. eggnog
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1 c. candied fruit (I used dried cranberries)

Spray a standard muffin pan with cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg

Combine the eggnog, egg and cooled melted butter

Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry mixture and blend

Fold in the fruits

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full

Bake for 25 minutes

Very yummy and a great way to use left over eggnog! From the December 2003 issue.

Cranberry Bars

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 apple with peel on, chopped fine
  • 1 c. cranberries, chopped fine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/4 c. of the flour and 1/2 c. of the sugar and the butter

Blend with a fork or pastry blender to fine crumbs and set aside

In another bowl, mix the fruits, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice

In a cup, mix the remaining 1/4 c. flour, the remaining 1 c. sugar, and the cinnamon and add to the fruit mixture, mixing to blend

Press half the crumb mixture firmly in a 9 x 13 pan

Spread the fruit mixture over it, leaving 1/2″ margin all around              

Sprinkle remaining crumbs lightly over the fruit and a little more around the edges

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or till golden brown

Cool before cutting into squares or bars


I took these bars to a party and they were a huge success! The recipe is from the June 1996 newsletter.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, I love cranberries!

Grape-Nut Pudding – A New England Marvel

As you can imagine, I have lots and lots of vintage cookbooks. I find reading them comforting, and I always dream of cooking all the recipes.  One recipe that shows up frequently in early to mid-20th century cookbooks is Grape-Nut Pudding.

Growing up, I liked Grape-Nut cereal. Then when we moved to New Hampshire, I discovered the amazing taste of Grape-Nut ice cream.  A New England tradition, I was hooked on the unusual taste and texture of the ice cream. I figured Grape-Nut pudding would be equally tasty. I’d been meaning to make the pudding and finally this weekend made this easy and very yummy recipe.

Grape-Nut cereal was introduced in 1897 by C. W. Post, a former patient and then competitor of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Grape-Nuts was first marketed as a health cereal, good for the brain and nervous system. The health claims were just a tad outlandish, to the point that Collier Magazine refused to accept ads from Post.

As time went on Grape-Nuts was part of a number of interesting ventures. Thanks to the cereal’s light and compact character, it’s nutritional value and resistance to spoilage, Grape-Nuts were not only the sponsor of the Admiral Byrd’s exploration of Antarctica in 1933, it was also used in 1953 on the first assent of Mount Everest. The cereal was also eaten in WWII as jungle rations. Pretty heady stuff for a cereal!

The other neat thing about Grape-Nuts is their groundbreaking marketing ideas. Post promoted the cereal with an ad campaign that positioned Grape-Nuts as “the most scientific cereal in the world”. Boxes of the cereal came with an 11 page pamphlet called “The Road To Wellville” written by Post. In-store tastings and sample give-aways also helped to entice consumers and Grape-Nuts became an almost instant hit. And Grape-Nuts was the first cereal to feature a coupon. This coupon gave housewives one cent off of their purchase which doesn’t seem like much, but I’m sure the cereal was pretty cheap back then.

One of the earliest references to Grape-Nut Pudding is in a 1901 church cookbook from Boston. By the 1920s the recipe was commonly found especially in community and church cookbooks. And of course Post used the recipe in magazine ads as seen here.

I had a huge choice of recipes to follow, but chose a recipe submitted by Grace Nye Smith in the 1949 Cook Book by the Evening Alliance of the Unitarian Church, Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Her recipe was a bit vague, so I did look on-line to learn a bit more about how to cook the pudding. I’ve added these tips to the recipe.

Grapenut Pudding (how they spelled it in the cookbook)

  • 1/1 c. grapenuts
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. molasses
  • 1 egg, separated
  • dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Scald the milk (which means heat it just to the boiling point)

Pour over the grapenuts and let this cool in a bowl

Separate the egg

Beat the egg yolk with the sugar, molasses and dash of salt

Beat the egg white until stiff

Pour the egg yolk mixture into the grapenut/milk mixture and stir (if the milk is still hot, make sure you temper the egg yolk by putting a few spoonfuls of hot milk into the egg and stirring. This keeps the egg from cooking when it hits the hot milk)

Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture

Pour it all into a buttered 2 quart pyrex dish

Put this dish into a pan and fill this half-way with hot water (and make sure you don’t accidentally pour the water into the pudding like I did.)

Bake for an hour

The resulting pudding is a creamy custard with a nice nutty crust at the bottom from the Grape-nuts. Served warm it is divine. I was going to whip some whipping cream, but quite frankly it didn’t need it.



Aunt Lil Bakes with Weight Watchers

I love to bake and I love to eat. And I hate to exercise. The result – some unwanted pounds that keep adding up. So Aunt Lil joined Weight Watchers. This isn’t my first time, so I know the ropes. Portion control is key, as well as tracking what you eat! But, no matter what, [...] Read more »

Farmers Market Finds

Since Farmer’s Markets are finally in full swing here in upper New Hampshire, I decided to try some recipes from Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, 2006. This is a great cookbook divided by the seasons. There are many creative recipes that help you use your bounty if you have a garden. Or [...] Read more »

Greetings from Rangoon

No, I’m not on some exotic vacation. I’m instead cooking from my latest vintage cook book find, Rangoon International Cook Book, 1956. I at first hesitated about buying the book, as its title implied that the book would be filled with 1950s recipes from Southeast Asia. In fact it’s an amazing mix of recipes from [...] Read more »

Shepherd’s Pie – Scottish Style

Several years ago, Dan and I took the trip of our dreams. We visited Scotland for two weeks. Both of us have Scottish ancestors. Dan’s are much easier to trace. His MacKenzie and MacLeod relatives came over in the 1830s from the Isle of Raasay during the Highland Clearances to Prince Edward Island, Canada. Further [...] Read more »

Meat Loaf – An American Institution?

Along with hamburgers and hotdogs, meat loaf ranks up there as a food that’s “as American as apple pie.” But it turns out its origins go quite far back to Roman times. In the oldest written cookbook found to date, Apicius de re Coquinaria, is a recipe for ground meat patties mixed with bread and [...] Read more »

A Tale of Two Rubes – Pies That Is

Rhubarb season has been in full swing here in New Hampshire these past few weeks. I love rhubarb, but have no recollection of my Mom serving it. Since the only desserts we ever had were compliments of Mrs. Smith’s frozen pies we never tasted rhubarb. I guess rhubarb pie wasn’t in Mrs. Smith’s repertoire either. [...] Read more »

Convict Cookies from the Pillsbury Bake-Off

Hopefully this title caught some people’s attention. And yes, it says convict as in convicted criminal. Read on to learn how an innocent 13-year-old won a prize in the 1952 Bake-Off and then went on to a life of crime. I needed to make cookies for an event where I work. I decided to try [...] Read more »

Kale Soup For a Wet Spring Day

The cookbook shelf brought me to Heart of the Home: Notes From a Vineyard Kitchen by Susan Branch from 1986. I’ve used this cookbook fairly frequently as the messy pages attest. The Kale Soup recipe called to me. I’m a total sucker for kale and sausage soup. Susan Branch is a prolific writer including of [...] Read more »

Next Page »