The demise of cookbooks

11614057I got my first cookbook at age 10 — Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Girls and Boys. Can you believe it’s still available? Everywhere! With the same cover, even. Ah, the joy of retro….

51rwlpinxfl-_ac_us218_In 1970 the cookbook to buy was the new and updated Betty Crocker  with the red cover. I got one the year I finished senior Home Economics (which I took instead of physics) 😅 In this class we learned sewing, knitting, cooking, and kitchen design — skills I have used throughout my life. Physics would never have been so practical. Not to mention that I would have never gotten a A in physics.

no algebra today?The copy of “Betty Crocker” lasted until 1988. When my mom died, hers was in better shape than mine, so I got hers. That one lasted until 1995 or so when my kids found a new/used edition and got it for me for Christmas. This is my third copy of this cookbook and you can see what good shape it’s in…


It is not that this is the best cookbook in the world. By far…. but it’s comfortable. Joy of Cooking is austere, though I use it in a pinch; other favorites — The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook and Moosewood Cookbook are lovely and artistic but just don’t have the range of recipes.

When we moved two years ago I went through all my cookbooks and discarded some, but I still have 33 cookbooks — including one that is a notebook of recipes written in my grandmother’s hand. I have no idea — is 33 cookbooks a lot? How many cookbooks are on your shelves? At least half of these I’ve gotten at library book sales for just a dollar or so. The other half have been gifts to me. Yes. I can always use and love a cookbook.


But my point in all this is to say that I — who love cookbooks — just don’t use them much anymore. I can go to the internet, type in my ingredients, and Voilá — there is the recipe for dinner. And if it turns out swell, then I bookmark it. My online recipe bookmarks are neatly organized into Breakfasts; Breads; Desserts and Sweet Snacks; Jams, Pickles, Snacks & Condiments; Main Dishes; and Vegetables, Salads & Soups. My physical cookbooks are not so well arranged.

They are jammed full of recipes written on slips of paper, index cards, or torn from magazines — that fall out when I open the covers. Mostly I know what recipe I’m going for when I reach for one. Moosewood Cookbook has the best cornbread recipe ever; Hay Day has the best homemade barbecue sauce; The Apple Lover’s Cookbook has that intriguing Marlborough Pie; and Ina Garten’s Make-It-Ahead has the best biscuits I’ve ever made…

But when I want something new, do I open a cookbook and browse? No. I browse my favorite food blogs: Foodie with Family; The Clever Carrot; Pioneer Woman; The Catholic Table; or just browse Yummly for what looks the best.

No matter; when I die, I will still have lots of cookbooks. And my kids can take the ones they want. Or give them to the library book sale.

I can’t write a post about cookbooks without including one of my favorite recipes :

Delicious (the best ever) Cornbread

(credit to Mollie Katzen, author of Moosewood Cookbook)

1/4 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk (or a mixture of yogurt and coconut/almond milk)
1 egg
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
3 T. melted butter or coconut oil
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Beat together egg, buttermilk and honey.
Mix all dry ingredients together.
Combine all ingredients, including melted butter/oil and mix.
Spread into a well-oiled 8-inch cast iron skillet.*
Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

*The cast iron skillet is my addition, but it is non-negotiable. It makes all the difference. Plus then you can cut the cornbread in cool wedges instead of boring old squares. You’re welcome.

The trouble with kale

Fall is not my favorite season.

Yes, I know, blogland abounds with people raving about fall and there are Thanksgiving recipes everywhere. The cooler weather, the colors of the leaves, frost on the pumpkins, pumpkin desserts, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin whatevers….

Yes. All that is fine, but the truth is I miss my garden.

I miss eating veggies and grilling out every night on the back porch.

I miss going out in my shorts and t-shirt every day at 3:00 to pick whatever looks good for dinner.

I miss iced mint tea on hot days and, well, you get it. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow…

So in an effort to extend the growing season here I planted a little fall garden when I harvested the garlic. Kale, Arugula, Spinach, Radishes, Green Onions, and Beets. And more beets. Can’t have too many beets…

We’ve been eating lots of Arugula salads with radishes and our last peppers…

But the kale…

I just don’t like it much. I know how nutritious it is. I know it is filled with vitamins, minerals, and all those omega good-for-yous. I know people make green smoothies from it. I just wish it tasted more like spinach. I wish our spinach had grown as well as the kale is growing.

So last week I decided I needed to pick some of that kale and eat the stuff. Kale Chips. Anything with olive oil and salt on it can’t be bad, right?

I watched a video.

From the video I deduced how it went wrong last year:  I didn’t dry the leaves enough after washing them, and instead of becoming crispy little chips, they were soggy green leaves with burnt edges.

I washed each leaf thoroughly because the first one I picked up had a little big green cabbage worm on it. I don’t like the thought of eating green cabbage worms.  I stopped growing broccoli years ago for that very reason.

So I hand washed and dried every leaf, cut out the stalks, and sliced each leaf into 3-inch pieces. I left them on the counter to go check what the oven temperature should be (anywhere from 275 to 350 depending on whether you watch the video or go by Guy Fieri’s Food Network recipe).

When I returned to my neatly sliced, diced, seriously studied kale leaves, there it was.

And so I checked every leaf on both sides again.

Scrupulously. Somehow I can’t imagine the perky blonde cook on the video finding cabbage worms in her kale. So I’m mentioning it to you because no one else does. If you grow or buy organic kale, you’re going to have cabbage worms. (One way to get rid of them is soak your kale in salted water for 10-15 minutes; but honestly, that seems to me like diluting the minerals that kale is loaded with, so I prefer to get rid of them by hand.) Next year I’m going to try Swiss Chard instead…

I tossed them with olive oil and salt and baked them in a 275 degree oven for 22 minutes. They were okay actually pretty good. And if there were any cabbage worms in there, at least they were dead and crispy.

kale chips

…and for cooking regular greens, I’m using beet greens because cabbage worms don’t bother the beets.

And if you aren’t a greens fan, here is a great tip: Take 5-7 leaves of whatever fall green you like. I mix them usually. Stack the leaves and roll them lengthwise. Slice into quarter inch rolls, and then chop them again so you have little pieces. Throw them into your sautéed onions and garlic and then mix them into whatever you are cooking. It ramps up nutritional value, they cook down and one hardly notices them.

sautéed veggies with chopped greens

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to count your blessings and eat your greens.

the rowdy beans


jungle of beansI pulled up one row of the rowdy jungle of green beans this morning. A few tiny white and yellow blossoms were dangling on the ends of brown leaves but I have a pantry full of beans.

a mess of beans

We can eat beans every day for a month this winter and still have some left

but those unruly beans shaded the pepper plants that are still growing.

And the autumn sun will love those peppers and caress them and grow them;

we don’t have enough peppers to eat every day for a month this winter.

It’s like life that way —  choices every day.

I hated to chop those Blue Lake Pole Beans down.

Kentucky Wonder Beans

They have been a wonder this summer.

Not only have they been charming in the garden on our string trellises,

but we ate them as often as we liked;

I’ve canned them, frozen them, pickled them;

I have them drying for shell beans in every spare spot in the kitchen and back porch,

and enough to plant for next year.

And yes, there’s a recipe here…

Dilled Green Beans or Dilly Beans

Fill pint jars with lovely long green beans. Holding the jars on the side,  put the beans in one at a time until you have a filled jar. To each pint jar, add some grinds of crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/2 teaspoon dill seed, and a garlic clove (or two). If you have dill flowers, you can add one to the bottom of the jar before you put in the beans, or the top of the jar afterwards. (If using the dill flowers, omit the dill seed.)

Make a brine of equal amounts of vinegar and water. I used 5 cups of each. To 10 cups of vinegar and water, add 1/2 cup pickling or kosher salt. Heat the brine to boiling; then carefully pour the brine over the beans leaving 1/4 inch head space in the jars. Seal with canning lids and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

You can see these were canned earlier in the season when my dill was still plentiful...

You can see these were canned earlier in the season when my dill was still plentiful…

These will look (and taste) delicious on the Thanksgiving relish tray

with pickled beets and gingered yellow squash pickles.