Tag Archives: vintage recipes

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #12

The Christmas Plum Pudding!

My childhood Christmas meant many things we called traditions after the fact. We would make our own decorations. Once, my mother made us string popcorn and cranberries because that’s what she did when she was young. Have you tried that? It’s torture. She told us when she was young her father would search high and low to bring each of the four children an orange. This was, in those times, quite exotic and a big expense. The orange would go in their stocking along with a couple of pennies. Here’s me thinking those stockings were lethal weapons between siblings. The lesson was we were to be happy with what we got and we were! Our parents tended to indulge us at Christmas.

Each year until 1968, we went to the Christmas tree lot and picked a tree. In 1968, the tree dried out so fast we couldn’t turn the lights on for fear of fire. From that time onward, we had a fake tree, a scotch pine, the long-needle variety, so tall we had to use a ladder to put the star on top. This was before they came prelit, too. Once the new tree came out of its box, it would never fit in again. Taking it from the attic would put my dad in his recliner the rest of the day. My mother would spray fake snow on the windows and make us clean it off in January. Fun times. In 1974, it was over eighty degrees outside, but hey – tradition – the fire was lit in the fireplace.

I think we must be looking forward to Christmas in this photo.

We listened to holiday music all day from my father’s vinyl collection. A small sampling included Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Tennessee Earnie Ford, and even The Chipmunks Sing Christmas songs. Each year, we had a Christmas open house for all the neighbors, the people from church and my father’s office staff. All of the things we did and looked forward to led up to the biggest tradition of all…my mother’s Christmas plum pudding, which was not a pudding and there were no plums. She always reminded us how it came from her mother’s old recipe from Scotland.

Every year, she would tweek it and declare it better than the one the year before. To be honest, I never cared for it and every year, I couldn’t tell you any different. It didn’t have a lot of flavor except for being sugary sweet with a hint of fruit cake. I have no idea if back then she got the suet at the store. It’s hard to find gradeA suet not full of birdseed, so I made my own.

At the grocery store, the butcher looked at me askance. Apparently, he isn’t asked for suet very often. He gave me a pound of fresh beef fat for free. I put it through the meat grinder at home and then boiled it in water for thirty minutes. After a night in the refrigerator, a pure, white layer of fat rose to the top. I seperated it from the rest and I had about a cup of suet.

In years previous to 2022 I might have attempted to create my mother’s recipe as it’s written despite that no one ever liked it. This year there has been a seismic shift in the price of everything. The candied fruit has always been what I would consider expensive, but this year it was catastrophically expensive. What had been two dollars for a small plastic container of candied cherries was now seven dollars or more. I get that in previous centuries this may have been the special Christmas pudding because of the trouble and expense of the candied fruits (in all likelihood, handmade ahead of time) and the mincemeat. My mother loved mincemeat, I could never stomach it. When I was young and couldn’t read, I always assumed mincemeat was made with meat. I was wrong. It’s some sort of combination of raisins, currants, and possibly dates (which remind me of giant cockroaches). It’s still a ‘no’ from me.

I’ve threatened to make my mother’s Christmas special many times and this year has been no exception. However, instead of my mother’s recipe, I broke with tradition and went with a recipe out of the Joy of Cooking cookbook, even eliminating some of the fruit from it because I only had a small pot to steam it in.

I also determined to use my instapot to steam it in. I had never done that before. My mother would steam hers in a small tin, wrapped in foil and inserted into a huge pot with water at the bottom, and set on low for three hours or all day or all night depending on what tweek she was using that year.

My recipe, with changes:

Bring to boil in a large saucepan: 2 cups of currants (I used Zante currants, which you can find in the dried fruit section of the store) with 2 cups of water. Cover tightly and simmer gently for 20 minutes, then uncover and stir, cooking until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

Combine in a large bowl: One and a half cups all-purpose flour, and 8 ounces finely chopped beef suet. Rub these two ingredients together lightly with your hands until the suet particles are seperated. (This is important.)

Add to the above flour mixture: 1 cup dark brown sugar, one and a half teaspoons ground cinnamon, one and a half teaspoons ground ginger, one half teaspoon ground cloves, one half teaspoon salt. Mix lightly until just blended. Use a light hand and your cake with be more of a cake and less of a brick. I will not admit to speaking from experience.

In another bowl, whisk together: Four large eggs, one third cup brandy or Cognac, and one third cup cream sherry. (Yum)

Combine the dry mixture with the wet mixture and add: one half cup of citron or a candied fruit of your choice. I love citron, so I dumped the entire carton in, which wasn’t much more than a half cup ($6.99 at Albertson’s on sale! Crazy.)

Pour into your prepared cake tin. I lined my pan with greased tin foil so it would be easy to release from the pan. You could use a cheesecake pan with a release instead. I steamed mine in the instapot with two cups of water at the bottom and my small cake pan sitting on a tall silicone trivet with lifting handles, see photo above. I pressed steam, high pressure, and set it for two hours with natural release.

You can see the result in the top photo, the blue around it is fire because yes, I set it on fire with cognac. I also made a whiskey hard sauce to pour on top. See below.

Whiskey Hard Sauce

Melt in an heavy saucepan over low heat: one stick of unsalted butter

Stir in: one cup of sugar, one fourth cup bourbon or some other whiskey, one eighth teaspoon salt.

Cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and remove from the heat.

In a seperate bowl whisk: one large egg until frothy and slowly whisk the egg into the hot butter sauce and return to stove and bring to a simmer. Stir until the mixture is thickened.


We had the neighbors over to taste the Christmas Plum pudding – explaining that it was not a pudding and no plums were harmed in the making of it. They were very impressed with the fire, not so impressed with the taste. The consensus was that it tasted like a raison cake-slash-fruit cake with the consistency of a bread pudding. It wasn’t horrible.

Unlike my mother, I won’t be making it again. God rest ye Merry gentlemen. Please enjoy your own figgy pudding and have the merriest of Christmases.

Cooking My Mother’s recipes #11

Dip Ole – add a fiesta to your next meal!

This recipe is from the 1970s

To be honest, I have no idea what ‘enchilada dip’ is. I searched the store for enchilada dip, enchilada sauce, a dry packet of seasoning, anything, and came up with cans of enchilada sauce. I can’t imagine adding an entire 12 oz. can of sauce to the other ingredients. You would have soup.

So I settled on a pouch of guacamole sauce, which had the same ingredients, but less of it. I can hear you say “Guacamole is not enchiladas.” Yes, I know. I’m tweeking it, though not in an R-rated way. I only added three tablespoons of it to the other ingredients.

This recipe makes enough for a party, a large party. So mix all this together and invite some friends over.

It’s time to invite friends over.

My mother and father would invite people over almost weekly. I never appreciated their hospitality for what it was in those days. I was always somewhat introverted. Perhaps the carnival of friends, neighbors, and siblings made me a friendlier person. We lived off the beaten path, you might say. To my friends at church, I lived in “the sticks” and it was too far to drive without making it a ‘plan’. So you see, I could have been a serious introvert and grown into a shy, reclusive adult if my parents had not been so generous with their time and home.

My older brother is not in the photo

My older brother, Bobby and me.

Cousins. This was taken in 1976 at my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary in South Houston. I was in Chicago at the time.
I love this photo of my mother and I. I don’t remember when this was taken, but I assume 1970s. Must be a national park.
Walking on Galveston beach with brothers Jeff and Jon 1970s
Very 1970s
My mom at a costume party

My mom could be fun. I miss how she could laugh at just about anything.

So, enjoy the generous amount of dip this recipe makes.

Add some chips. Make some tacos to go with it. Make it a party!

It was good!!!

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #10

It’s been a while.

During the summer of 2018, I went with my friends Denise Ditto Satterfield and her kind husband, Frank, to London, England. It was a research trip for me for my working manuscript, a prequel to Deadly Thyme. The novel is set in 2007 Harrow and there is a parallel story set in 1940. Of course a couple of murders have DS Jon Graham confused and angry.

This photo is from a tourist station in the heart of London. My Scottish cousins (my mother’s side) as we wait to board the red double-decker you can’t see. Fiona is my third cousin. I’m wearing the hat. Seriously, we look like we’re related.

Fiona, Cathy, and me.
York, England – Matt Sheperd

Here is a photo of my distant cousin in York. He is from my father’s side. If you knew my grandfather Robert Thompson Sr. You would say they look alike. Matt is (I’m pretty sure) my grandfather’s great-grand nephew.

Now, here’s where things get really interesting. I thought part of my book would be set in York. Turns out that (very interesting) storyline detracted from the general forward pace of the story. So, the York storyline is going to be it’s own book in the series. WhooHoo! Here’s a picture of the cathedral. We didn’t go in, but standing outside trying to imagine how the workers put it together centuries ago.

Just after our train trip from London to York, I got news that my big dog, my best bud, the sweet Big Boy had died at home. Devastated does not describe how I felt. I lost my stuffing for a while.

Slipping in a good photo of my daughter and the big guy.

But not to be left out is the picture of Harrow school because most of Deadly Haste takes place around and near it. Remember that, I have no idea when the final draft will be ready to publish, but I’m working on it.

So, after returning to Houston and the empty house, I don’t know how I moved past that. The house was a grief echo chamber. My husband, who stayed home to care for the animals, was as bad off as I was. (Thank you, Frank and Denise for putting up with my sad self in England. The bike tour was fantastic, really!)

The decision to move elsewhere wasn’t a hard one. So we began renovating our 1910 house to sell. Yes, they are using the neighbor’s yard to take and replace siding and windows on that side.

It was a huge project. Huge. There has never been a bigger project in the history of anywhere! Trust me. Everything on the outside was made new, the kitchen made better, a new bathroom upstairs. Original flooring sanded and polished. It was so pretty inside and out. Goodbye old beautiful lady…

And this is an earlier (not long after we moved in in 2010) before picture. Do you see Big Boy?

Hello apartment living while my husband took care of his aging parents.

His mother passed away and his step-brother moved his step-father to Tyler, TX.

So things were really quiet for a while, but our apartment was nice and there were a ton of amenities to enjoy. Then came the monster from the East, Covid. No more amenities for you, my pretties! Apartment living turned a bit claustrophobic. I learned to do watercolors.

The smoky mountains

I finished a painting I’d been working on a while.

Our son got married. He and the wife live in Fort Worth. The daughter’s family (and four grandkids) live in Lafayette, LA. My husband’s brother moved away to Arkansas. So we decided with most of the family living away, let’s move to Louisiana to be near the grands. Goodness! The mean virus really helped a lot of people to realize we all need loved ones near. Perhaps my son and his wife will see the light and move over here, too. Ha! Ha! Doubt it.

I don’t know, I love nostalgia. I guess you knew that, what with all my blog posts, an all.

The top photo is our house now and the bottom photo is my grandparent’s Iowa house back in the 1940s. I remember the arched garden entrance on the right on my grandparents house. I don’t know why I was so enamored with that feature as a child, but I was. I don’t know if you can see it in the feature photo behind my mother.

Oh, but I forgot the OTHER highlight of moving to LA. (besides getting to play with my precious grands throughout the week.)

Meet George Bailey! Big Boy 2.0 He’s about to have a wonderful life!

All these photos are to answer, where have you been for over two years?

I know. I know. You didn’t sign on here to hear all about me. PishShaw! You want a recipe from my mother.

a photo of my parents Mary and Robbie probably in 1947

You tuned in for a vintage recipe and you will have the best, right here.

Prince of Wales cake (recipe from 1941)

I chose the Prince of Wales cake because I remember my mother making it often because it’s a good basic spice cake. Here is a picture of the recipe from her cookbook.

It’s not readable. Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter (full) – that might mean real as opposed to margarine, which was the popular choice in her day.

1 1/2 cup sour milk (surely that means sour cream). I used sour cream. Maybe that’s why both times the cake seemed dry. Perhaps I should have used buttermilk. What do you think?

1 full cup ground raisons

3 eggs

1/2 t. grnd nutmeg

1 1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. grnd cinnamon

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 t. grnd. cloves

1/2 t. allspice

Smear cake pan with crisco and then dust with flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the sugar and butter.

Beat the eggs and add the soda to the sour milk/cream. Mix all dry spices into the flour. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, depending on the pan. The Bundt pan I used extended that time to 45 minutes. Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess. I think my mother must have assumed anyone who attempted this cake would know how to bake one.

Me? I’ve never been exceptionally good at following directions. I tried this cake recipe two times and both times the cake was dry. But that isn’t how my mother’s cake was, so please try this and get back to me on how I can make it better. Here’s a picture of the finished product. It did TASTE good!

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #5

I’ve posted the photo above from my family tree. The couple are my great-grandparents. They immigrated to Canada from Scotland and then entered the United States and settled in Mason City, Iowa. The girl on the far right is my grandmother, Elizabeth, though she was called Mary.

Sponge cake

Scan_20180206 (3)Here is me and my family at the table, probably 1961.

I don’t know if my mother’s recipe for sponge cake was one passed down to her from her mother and her grandmother, but it may well have come from the ancestral home in Scotland. I know my mother made this cake many times because she talked about making it. I don’t remember her making it. It may be I was just too young.

I did remember the taste of it after I made it.SAM_1891SAM_1892

She liked to experiment with new recipes and this one must have been one she decided she didn’t need to make in lieu of the new ones.

It is a simple cake to create from scratch and requires few ingredients. I hope you’ll come along and bake it to taste the delicious, fluffy egginess of it.


You will need a candy thermometer. That’s the most exotic thing about this recipe.The ingredients are: 1 cup flour, 1 teas. cream of tartar, 1/4 teas. salt, 1 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 1 teas. vanilla, 7 egg whites, 7 egg yolks.

Add Cream of tartar to egg whites and beat egg white mixture until stiff. This is the perfect Easter recipe. Let me tell you about the eggs I used. My brother gave them to me. They’re from his free-range chickens, and his wild ducks. The duck eggs have larger yolks but as you will see the dark yellow yolks from all the eggs made for and extra rich, and very yellow cake.




Boil sugar and water to soft ball stage (on candy thermometer). You might think this is too much of a complication. It is really very easy and takes less than five minutes.

Pour hot syrup over the egg whites and beat for 5 minutes, adding the vanilla and the salt.

Add to the white fluff, the  beaten egg yolks. (These will be creamy not fluffy).

Lastly, fold the flour  into the fluffy mixture.

Pour into an ungreased tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.


Here is what is not written on the recipe but is how my mother taught me when making an angel food cake from scratch, which is much like the type a cake a sponge is.



Turn the hot pan upside down using something to hold the pan’s edges off the counter. I used cereal bowls. My mother used to use her laundry starch bottle.  Let this sit for another hour like this. The cake will be fluffier. After an hour, gently tap the bottom of the tube pan to loosen and slowly pry the cake free. (It should be cool enough to handle.)

My mother wrote – “ummm – good!SAM_1903