An old cookbook

Community cookbook, compiled by churches or fraternal organizations, are often filled with helpful hints and cooking hacks. 

As everyone knows, old cookbooks compiled by churches, organizations and businesses are one of my favorite book or tag sale finds. I figure the contributors have submitted recipes that are their very best and most often used — maybe not the ones they’re most noted for, because cooks rarely share that one! Many TV shows have dealt with a recipe being shared, but the giver omitting an ingredient so it wouldn’t be quite the same delight as what he/she makes.

In many of these cookbooks there is a section of helpful hints, what we now call kitchen hacks. Here are some, although I haven’t tried them all — especially the first one!

  • An unlit match stick held between your teeth, striking end out, when slicing onions will prevent onion tears.
  • Put wilted carrots and celery in a bowl of ice water and refrigerate to perk them up. (I’ve done this and it works!)
  • Cabbage leaves are easily separated when the head is first cored and then placed in the freezer for one or two nights
  • A little lemon juice added to cauliflower cooking water will keep the flowerettes white. The addition of a piece of white bread will reduce the cooking odor.
  • Dipping citrus fruit in hot water before squeezing will double and triple the amount of juice the fruit yields.
  • A large piece of citrus peel placed in a box of brown sugar will keep it moist and lump free. Another cookbook recommended adding an apple slice.
  • Potatoes should be started cooking in boiling salted water rather than cold, and drained immediately. Cover lightly with a clean dish towel to keep them warm, but never put a lid on the pot or they will get soggy.
  • To remove excess salt from food, add one teaspoon each of sugar and vinegar to the pot. In a soup, add a few slices of potato.
  • Save time when browning a quantity of meatballs. Place them in a Pyrex dish for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
  • When broiling steak, brush both sides with olive oil or butter to seal in the juices.
  • Drop a lettuce leaf into a pot of homemade soup to absorb grease from the top.
  • To remove the core from a head of lettuce, hit the core end once against the counter sharply. The core will loosen and pull out easily. (I do this all the time. It was a hack I learned from my mother.)
  • Cream will whip faster and better if you first chill the bowl, beaters and cream.
  • A dampened and folded dish towel placed under a bowl in which you are beating something will keep it from dancing all over the countertop.

I ran across a tried-and-true recipe the other day and pulled it out for future reference. It was a staple in our house back in the day — even my picky-eater son liked it. OK, to be honest, he picked out the onions and ate only the noodles and meat … Make sure to put a match between your teeth when slicing the onions!


(Recipe courtesy Good Housekeeping magazine)

Makes 8 servings.


3 tablespoons margarine or butter

6 medium-style onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced

2 pounds beef for stew, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup paprika (yes, this much!)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

One 8-ounce container sour cream

4 cups buttered hot cooked noodles


In a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, in hot margarine or butter, cook onions until lightly browned. Add meat, paprika and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours until meat is fork-tender.

Stir in sour cream , heat through (do not boil!). Serve over noodles.