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Cooks' Exchange: Another birthday brings back memories of favorite childhood recipes

Cooks' Exchange: Another birthday brings back memories of favorite childhood recipes

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I recently celebrated another birthday with fond memories of the wonderful breakfasts Mother made for me years ago with a smile and a hug to begin each school day. She also saved some of my favorite old-fashioned recipes, treasured in her beautiful handwriting, for meals to enjoy throughout the rest of my life.

The angel food birthday cakes decorated with white and green frosting Mother made every year for my Oct. 4 birthday still prompt a smile. But among her favorite handwritten recipes with few ingredients was also one from a July 1949 Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which reminded me of how well I remember tasting potato salad for the first time as a youngster and realizing it wasn’t so bad after all.

Potato Salad

6 to 8 potatoes unpeeled red-skin potatoes cooked with peelings

1 tablespoon salt


²⁄³ cup salad dressing (mayo)

1 teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons sugar

1 or 2 tablespoons vinegar

1 cup celery, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped onions

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped or sliced

Scrub unpeeled potatoes and cook in water to cover with salt added. Cover and heat to boiling before turning heat to low. Begin testing potatoes after 15 minutes. When barely tender, remove from heat and drain potatoes. Peel while hot. Salad should be mixed while potatoes are still warm to absorb seasoning. Cut potatoes in ¾- to 1-inch cubes. Combine salad dressing with salt, sugar and vinegar and mix thoroughly. Add sliced celery and chopped onions to potatoes. Add dressing and carefully toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes. Chill in refrigerator for several hours.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Note: Slices of chopped hard-boiled eggs can be added to the salad leaving some to garnish the top.

Mother’s BBQ Sandwiches

1 pound of hamburger

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped green pepper

¼ cup chopped celery

8-ounce can tomato sauce

¼ cup catsup

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

¹⁄8 teaspoon pepper

Brown meat, add vegetables and cook until tender. Add remainder of ingredients and simmer 15 minutes. Excellent. Serve in hamburger buns.

Mother’s Chili

3 slices of bacon cut into small pieces

½ cup chopped onion

Chopped garlic, optional

1 pound of hamburger

12 ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce

15 ounce can of tomatoes, sieved or diced

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ package (1½ tablespoons) Lipton dry onion soup

Salt to taste

Slice bacon and brown. Add onions, garlic and sauté. Add meat, crumble and brown. Add beans and sauces and dried Lipton soup. Add chili powder, salt and simmer 20 minutes.

Goulash, aka Halloween Goulash

The Grubers lived next door to us on Talmadge Street and their son, Bob, was one of my neighborhood playmates. One day Mrs. Gruber shared this recipe with my mother. Decades later, being a mother myself, I’d make it for an early supper on Halloween so my three sons had something healthy to eat before trick-or-treating. Now and then, many decades later, they still ask for Halloween goulash.

3-4 bacon slices, cubed

1 onion, minced

Small amount of fresh green pepper, optional

1 pound of ground beef

½ box of macaroni

1 can tomato soup

Fry bacon and onion until “brown,” adding optional green pepper

(If using celery, stew first for 5 minutes.)

Boil macaroni 5 minutes, then drain before adding soup. Cook for a few minutes before serving.

Note: Mother never added green pepper or stewed celery.

Walnut Crescents

One of Mother’s favorite cookie recipes appeared in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in December 1952. Submitted by Mrs. Edward H. Flitton, Austin, Minnesota, it was described as being a “melt-in-your-mouth cookie, the dainty kind you like to serve to company” and became a family favorite forever.

½ cup butter

½ cup shortening

¹⁄³ cup sugar

2 teaspoons water

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups enriched flour

½ cup chopped black walnuts

Confectioners’ sugar

Cream butter to soften; then thoroughly cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Mix in water and vanilla, then flour and nuts; chill for 3 or 4 hours. Form dough in long rolls, ½ inch across; cut in 3-inch lengths and shape in crescents. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in a 325 F oven for 15 minutes. (Do not brown cookies.) Remove from sheet, cool slightly and dip in confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: About 4 dozen

Caramel Baked Apples

Here is another longtime favorite of mine copied from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine decades ago described as having “a spicy crumb-nut mixture goes on top,” submitted by Mrs. Sam Johnson, Madison.

6 to 8 medium apples

½ cup seedless raisins

3 tablespoons enriched flour

¹⁄³ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter

¼ cup chopped California walnuts

½ cup water

½ cup orange juice

Wash apples and core. Pare about one strip around top. Place in deep baking dish. Fill centers with raisins. Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter with pastry blender or fork. Add walnuts. Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples. Pour over water and orange juice. Bake uncovered in moderate oven (350 F) 1 hour, basting occasionally. Serve with cream.

Rhubarb Kuchen

Being born in Budapest, Hungary, here is Mother’s favorite kuchen made with rhubarb that became my favorite, too, many years later.

1¼ cups flour, sifted

½ cup butter

2-3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

3 cups rhubarb cut in ½-inch pieces

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

Blend flour, butter, sugar, salt and baking powder with fingers or fork until crumbly. Mix egg and milk and add to flour mixture with fork. Butter fingers and press lightly into 7x11-inch pan or square or round coffee cake pan. Spread rhubarb on top of dough. Make streusel with butter, sugar and flour with fork or fingers. Sprinkle over rhubarb and bake at 375 F for 1 hour. Serve warm, plain or with whipped cream.

Strand’s Tom and Jerry Mix

Another family favorite Mother marked as being “Excellent” was shared a long time ago by Edna Woodford who had been lucky to get the recipe from Olaf Strand’s Grand Tavern on Atwood Avenue near Schenk’s Corner or next door at Strand’s Bakery.

1 quart Tom and Jerry Mix

½ bottle (13 ounce) light rum

½ pint whipped cream


Pour Tom and Jerry Mix in a punch bowl, then pour in light rum. Mix together well, then fold in whipped cream to mix together. Pour into cups and sprinkle nutmeg on top.

Hot Fruit Compote

Along the way, here is one of my own favorite holiday recipes from the past, found on page 199 in the Edgewood cookbook, “Let’s Eat!”

29-ounce can of pears, drained

29-ounce can of peach slices, drained

16-ounce can of pineapple, drained

29-ounce can of mandarin oranges, drained

½-1 package fresh cranberries

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup butter

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

¼-½ teaspoon curry

Place drained fruit in 9x13-inch baking dish. Stir in heated sugar mixture. Bake for 1 hour at 325 F. Serve warm with slotted spoon.

Mother’s Beer Batter Fish

1 cup flour

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons sugar

Beer, to thin

Mix ingredients. Dip and deep fry.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at


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