Vintage cookbooks we can’t live without

wooden spoon recipes

A good all-around cookbook is like a much loved aunt who tells great stories and always has the answer to all your cooking questions. Sites like provide instant gratification when you know you want to make something specific. And having those ratings and user notes make sure you don’t waste your time and ingredients on something that winds up as a total meh.

But a cookbook tells you more. It tells you about your ingredients, about your cooking method, about variations you can make to a basic recipe. And if it’s a vintage cookbook, you don’t need ratings to tell you if a recipe is good. The binding and grease stains tell you that.  If the binding falls open to a page and if there are plenty of spatters and maybe a handwritten note in the margin, you know you’ve stumbled on something tasty.

Wondering if there’s a vintage cookbook you should have in your collection? Here’s a few to start with, the vintage cookbooks the Vintage Unscripted team can’t live without.

King Arthur Cookbook

The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook

Author/Brinna Sands   Copyright/1990   Best recipe/All-American Baking Powder Biscuits

Brinna Sands must have known she was creating the best go-to baking book ever when she was working on this, because it is so comprehensive. Basic recipes with suggestions for how to spin variations depending on our ingredients on hand. Clear directions that explain the hows and whys that inspire confidence. There’s nothing outrageous and fancy here, it’s good solid basic baking. We have loved the pages right out of the binding of our paperback version. The Baking Powder Biscuits are by far our favorite recipe, but we also love the pizza crust, muffins, cobblers, crisps, hearth breads, quiches, scones…

–Laurie, NextStage Vintage

Bart’s Favorites

Author/My Mom & her friends   Copyright/1960s    Best recipe/Frozen Fruit Salad

I’m sharing this cookbook, not for the fabulous recipes, but for the wonderful memories it brings back to me. It’s a little three ring binder filled with handwritten recipe cards that remind me of some of the dishes I grew up with. Bart was my Dad and as you can tell from the smudges on the index card, her frozen fruit salad was one of his favorites. I’m not sure what will be our complete menu will be this Christmas day but I do know the frozen fruit salad and his special gumdrop oatmeal cookies will be served. Celebrating family….that’s what the holidays mean to me. 

NOTE TO SELF: A vintage recipe box full of our family favorites might be a memorable gift for our son who loves to cook. 

— Linda, Selective Salvage


Best Recipes 

Author/ Ceil Dyer    Copyright/1993    Best Recipe/?

While I wouldn’t call this a vintage cookbook, it certainly contains age-old recipes from the backs of bottles, cans and boxes. So many in fact that it was difficult to come up with just one to show you! Whenever we are trying to recall a recipe from the back of a package I always resort to this book. What fun!

–Dot, Attic and Barn Treasures


The Vegetarian Epicure

Author/Anna Thomas    Copyright/1972    Best Recipe/?

Anna was taught to appreciate year round celebrations involving food lovingly prepared by her Polish-born family whose faith called for meatless meals as a Catholic Family. Just after we married, we bought this cookbook to give us recipes to add to the few meatless meal we did know how to prepare. She had sections on what should be in the pantry, how to entertain well and even sample menus. We are not vegetarians now but in our newly achieved retirement, we will include more meatless with style meals and share them with friends. I also love the artwork by Julie Maas.

–Mary Ellen, Aunt Hatties Attic Vintage

Los Angeles County Fair Award-Winng Recipes

Author/Various   Copyright/1982   Best Recipe/Old Fashioned Lemon Bread

This book is the fourth edition of award-winning recipes compiled from the largest county fair in the world. The compiled recipes from the Los Angeles County Fair includes everything from breads, to pickles and relishes, to jams, jellies and BBQ and everything in between. A treasure trove of cooking and baking. This 1st prize winning lemon Bread recipe has been a family favorite for many years.

–Pam, Vintage Renude




Holiday do-ahead gift: chocolate pudding mix

hourglass count down

Disclaimer: No one likes holiday creep. Thanksgiving has no right to be hanging around in October. And Christmas, don’t get me started. Eggnog at the supermarket before Thanksgiving? Wrong. Boxes of peppermint sandwich cookies? Oh so tempting, but oh so wrong in October. Holiday creep is to the December holidays what DVDs were to The Wizard of Oz. Watching The Wizard of Oz used to be special because it was only on once a year. Now that you can watch it any time, it’s still a classic but it’s not an event. So while posting a holiday-do ahead gift recipe might feel a little bit like holiday creep, this is shelf-stable and mixing it up now will give you a little breathing room later.

♦  ♦  ♦

Cecily Brownstone's Associated press CookbookCecily Brownstone is not exactly a household name now. But for 39 years, she was a syndicated columnist and the food editor at the Associated Press (from 1947 to 1986). She was the cooking equivalent of Dear Abby, a household name that provided recipes and cooking information. Influential cooks James Beard and the Joy of Cooking authors were among her friends. She was a titan in the cooking world for most of her life. Which makes one wonder why she is so little known now.

In one of her published weekly columns, reader Quick Cook asked for an chocolate pudding recipe she could make up in a flash. Ms. Brownstone provided her with this recipe for a homemade instant pudding mix.

Times may have changed, but it’s hard to imagine a world where your friends and family wouldn’t flap their flippers over a gift of instant chocolate pudding mix. Just add mason jar, bow and snazzy label with directions. To really dial it up, add vintage pudding or parfait glasses.

(You also get a bonus salad dressing recipe, but not one you can make and store for months.)

Cecily Brownstone's chocolate pudding recipe




Deep South in your Mouth Pecan Pie

pecan pie


National Pecan Pie Day was July 12. We’re a couple days late with this, but once you make this recipe, it won’t matter because time will stand still…

This is the classic version (from the back of the old Karo Syrup bottle) of this fabulous (and famous) southern pie and it’s as easy to make as well, pie! This recipe lends itself to additions so make your own variation of this classic and get some south in your mouth! I have taken the liberty of including some common variations below along with my own tweaks used over the years. 

Classic Pecan Pie Recipe 

1 cup light Karo corn syrup

3 eggs (large)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbs melted butter (do NOT use margarine)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-½ cups Pecans

1 UNbaked deep dish pie shell (homemade or store bought)

Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir with a spoon. Do not use an electric mixer as this will cause over beat the mixture and the pie will not set. Stir in pecans. Pour into UNbaked pie crust and bake at 350 for 60 – 70 minutes. When done the middle should spring back when touched. If the edges of the crust are browning too quickly you may cover just the edges with foil. Cool for 2 hours.

Notes: Just to be on the safe side (and because I hate cleaning the oven!) I bake this pie over a sheet of foil or over a pan. If you bake this pie sitting directly on a cookie sheet it will take longer and the bottom of the crust will not brown as well – just so you know.

My tweaks – I use 2 cups of pecans. LOVE those pecans! ½ cup of the those are chopped finely before adding and the remaining 1-1/2 cups are broken. I do this so there are pecans spread throughout the filling (not just on top). I generally do not place entire pecan halves in my pie as they are hard to cut through when you serve. Occasionally I will use dark Karo in place of the light – this will give the pie a richer taste. I also add just a dash of salt. (it helps cut down on the sweetness)

Common Variations and additions:

Toast pecans prior to adding in filling

Dark Karo syrup




Chocolate Chips


~ enjoy 🙂

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

It’s Cinco de Mayo! 

Cinco de Mayo (pronounced: [ˈsiŋko ðe ˈmaʝo]; Spanish for “Fifth of May”) is a celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

Here’s a video giving a brief history of Cinco de Mayo:

While Cinco de Mayo has it’s roots in history, Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated in Mexico as much as it is in the United States.

Here in the US, people have been celebrating Cinco de Mayo since the 1930s. The commercialization of the holiday really took off in the 1980s, and since that time, the 5th of May has been a perfect excuse to celebrate the Mexican culture, heritage and tradition – usually with food and drink – tacos and margarita’s anyone?!

Grilled Steak Tacos

To get your celebration started, pour yourself an ice cold margarita and then whip up a batch of these grilled steak tacos.  A delicious, authentic taste of Mexico – a flavorful twist on the traditional Carne Asada Taco.


The recipe includes four parts: the filling, the cilantro chimichurri, pico de gallo, and quick pickles. It looks like a lot of work, but it’s really quite easy to make this recipe. Give it a try!

(recipe from Feasting at Home)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Flank Steak (or pounded skirt steak)
  • 1 sliced Sweet Onion for grilling (optional)
  • Juice of 1 Orange
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • ⅓ cup Soy Sauce
  • ⅓ cup Olive Oil
  • ½ teaspoon Sugar
  • 4 smashed, chopped Garlic Cloves
  • ½ cup chopped Cilantro
  • Tortillas: 10-12, freshly made if possible

Filling Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, mix together ingredients for marinade.
  2. Place steak and onions in a gallon size Ziploc bag and pour marinade over, sealing and turning several times to coat well.
  3. Let sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally. (Or marinate for up to 3 hours in fridge, bringing to room temp before grilling.)
  4. Pre-heat grill and grill meat.
  5. Grill steak on med high heat to desired doneness. A little char is good.
  6. Let rest 10 minutes, then thinly slice the meat across the grain.

Ingredients for Cilantro Chimichurri:

  • 1 bunch Cilantro or about 1 cup packed 
  • 1 bunch Italian Parsley- about 1 cup packed
  • ¼ cup fresh Lime Juice (1-2 limes)
  • ½ cup Olive Oil
  • ¼ cup chopped Onion
  • 2 garlic Cloves
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • ½ of one Jalapeño Pepper

Cilantro Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, place jalapeno, garlic, onion, and pulse several times until chopped.
  2. Add cilantro (stems are fine) and Italian parsley (again, thin stems are fine), pulse again.
  3. Add oil, lime juice, cumin, coriander, and salt. Pulse until combined.
  4. Set aside in small serving bowl.

Ingredients for Pico De Gallo:

  • 4 vine-ripe Tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ medium Red Onion, chopped
  • 2 green Onions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 1 Serrano Chili, minced
  • 1 handful fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1½ Limes, juiced
  • ¼ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Pico De Gallo Instructions:

  1. Finely dice tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro.
  2. Season with salt, pepper and lime. Add diced avocado and a couple splashes of Tapatio hot sauce, if desired.
  3. Place all in a bowl, mix and let sit for 15 min to 1 hour (makes 2 Cups)

Ingredients for Quick Pickles:

  • 2 cups mix of sliced Radishes, Onion, or Carrots, Cauliflower, or whatever you like
  • 1 cup Vinegar
  • 1 cup Water
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Whole Peppercorns or Whole Coriander Seed
  • A few sprigs Cilantro

Quick Pickles Instructions:

  1. In a small sauce pan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorns or coriander seeds.
  2. Add your choice of sliced radishes, slivered onions, thin sliced carrots or what ever else you like. Bring to a boil.
  3. Remove and place in freezer for 10-15 minutes (or refrigerate until cold).
  4. Remove and place in a serving bowl or jar.
  5. Top with a little fresh cilantro.

Garnish Ideas:

  • Lime wedges, avocado slices, cabbage slaw, crumbed queso fresco or cotija cheese (optional), Tapatio hot sauce, sour cream avocado, cilantro


  1. Follow all instructions above for the various components of this dish.
  2. For tortillas – lightly grill, until soft and pliable (or grill directly on a gas burner. flipping and turning for 30 seconds) wrap up in a towel, to prevent drying.
  3. Serve everything together, along with garnishes, and a fresh margarita of course!

Shop Vintage with a Mexican Flair!

Jell-o Unscripted: the good, the really bad and the genius

jello fruit

When you’re as versatile a food construction agent as Jell-o and you’ve been around as long as Jell-o, you will have a rich and varied historical archive of potential recipe uses. Some of those uses are classic for all the right reasons. Some are not. In honor of all the Jell-o worthy spring events, we’re creating a highly subjective collection of the many faces of Jell-o: the good, the awful horrible bad and the genius.

The Good Jell-o

Strawberry poke cake, photo from Betty Crocker.

Poke Cake. Those of us who prefer eating simple with fresh ingredients cringe a little at a recipe that includes cake mix, Jell-o and Cool Whip. But it’s so tasty…and so easy. Extra points given to Team Betty Crocker for spearing their strawberry with a plastic cocktail saber.

strawberry pretzel salad
Jell-o strawberry pretzel/salad. Photo from Kraft.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad and/or Dessert. There are so many recipes for this unlikely combo out there that it’s almost needs it’s own website. This version is from the Jell-o mother planet. Feel free to try others. 

jello and fruit
Fruit suspended in Jell-o from at 1969 Good Housekeeping recipe book.

Jell-o with fruit. One of the reasons Jell-o remains such a favorite is that it is to the cook like paint is to the artist. You can mix it, you can mold it, you can texture it, you can add stuff to it and it will, as a rule behave in a predictable manner. Use refrigeration creatively to create layers, use glasses to make pretty parfaits (don’t pour hot jello into your pretty glassware, let it cool a bit), whip air into partially cooled Jell-o to get a cool bubbled texture…if you can dream it, you can probably do it. But there are some things that will make your vision fall apart, like adding the wrong fruit or adding too much liquid, so check out the link above for basic directions.

The Horrifyingly Bad Jell-o

jello ad
Jell-o with salad bits. From Huffington Post. With regrets.

My personal Jell-o horror was the salad my mom made with celery Jell-o (yes, it was a thing) filled with shredded carrots and celery. Three wrongs do not make a right, especially when what you think should be served is cherry Jell-o with big cherries floating in it. When celery Jell-o was confined to the dumpster of grocery history, she substituted lemon. That was even worse.

Although celery was the only flavor from the Jell-o house of horrors to cross our threshold, it was not the only savory flavor and here are the ads to prove it. 

It would be easy to go on and on here, because when Jell-o goes bad, it goes seriously bad. But Buzzfeed already put in the sweat, so easier just to read their post on Horrifying Retro Gelatin. Yes, some of their are not Jell-o based, some are plain gelatin, not branded packaged flavored gelatin. But I think it is entirely fair to paint Jell-o with a gelatin brush.

The Genius Jell-o

hello jello
Hello, Jell-o, the genius showcase of the Jello Mold Mistress.

If you feel like you want to dial up your Jell-0 artistry, spend some time with the Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn. We haven’t mentioned Jell-0 shots, but if you were looking for recipes for those and other incredible treats, you would find them in her book, Hello, Jell-o or on her blog.

And then there’s the world of 3D gelatin art. You know those beautiful glass paperweights with glass flowers suspended in a ball of glass…picture that. Then picture it made with gelatin and completely edible.

There are lots of sites that offer both instruction and supplies for this incredible food art. To get started, check out Gelatin Art Market and Art de Gelatin


gelatin cake
3D gelatin art wedding cake from Art de Gelatin.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

So go forward and congeal some spectacular desserts, salads or whatever strikes your fancy. If there is one mantra you should remember for Jell-o crafting, it’s this: Just because you can suspend it in Jell-o, it doesn’t mean you should.

What is your best Jell-o recipe? Or your most regrettable one? Share in the comments below!

Jell-O: the perfect Easter treat

jello cubes

Jell-O is the inspiration for the perfect Easter dessert or salad. Bright colors, light taste, easy to make and the perfect base on which to build a thousand creative taste sensations.

Did you know it’s been around since the late 1800’s? Jello was originally created by a husband and wife team who made and sold medicinal syrups. They didn’t do well marketing their new product and soon sold both the name and patented formula to a gentleman who knew just how to market this new invention. It was later bought by General Foods which became Kraft Foods and well, we all know what happened from there.  

Jell-O is still a popular treat today and can be used in lots of fun desserts and salads. No matter what the season, it’s the perfect food. Cool and soothing, it goes down easily and doesn’t feel heavy. Kids love it for the bright colors and vibrant flavors.

If you so happen to be stuck in a hospital for any length of time, you will be sure to see some turn up with a meal or two. It’s served in school cafeterias and restaurants alike and still brings a smile to most everyone’s face. As a low cost and easy to make dessert Jell-O can’t be beat.

Try this simple vintage 1950s Jell-o recipe below to bring some jewel toned tastiness to your Easter table. 

This fabulous Jell-O ad is from a 1956 Family Circle magazine

Pi Day 2017: make mine Margarita

pi shrine

pi day chartIf you made a Venn diagram of people who love math best and people who love pie best, today would be the day those two loves overlap. Happy π Day!

Credit for the creation of Pi Day rests with Larry Shaw, a physicist at the incredible San Francisco Exploratorium. In 1988, he organized a parade of sorts followed by pie. It caught on, as cool things often do. Today the Exploratorium celebrates the 30th Pi Day with free admission, a procession to the Pi Shrine and pie.

You can’t use Pi Day as an excuse to take the day off from work even though it is officially recognized by the US House of Representatives. But you can use it as a reason to eat pie, as if a reason to eat pie was needed. To assist with that, we’re digging into the Vintage Unscripted recipe inspiration file…and coming out with two tasty lime pastries from That Lively Lime Twist, a 1983 recipe leaflet from Borden. The Margarita Pie with a pretzel crust is definitely unscripted. Although the recipe calls for tequila and triple sec, it would probably be fine without the first and with a bit of orange extract subbed in as the second. As for the Key Lime Pie recipe, there are hundreds of them out there, but this one is fast and simple.

lime pie recipes


Super Bowl snacks they’ll never see coming

shrimp on parade

Are you a Super Bowl snack traditionalist or innovator? Do you like the same thing every year or do you  strike out in new directions? We’re here to help. We reached into annals of snack history and found some toothsome morsels to delight your palate and amuse your bouche. They aren’t the kind of snacks you might think of today in the Golden Age of Guac* and Nachos, but that there’s something to be said for being unscripted and unexpected. (One guacamole recipe below for good measure.)

From the I Wish I Could Cook comb binding cookbook published by a group of New England Telephone employees in the 1970s. 

Crabbies recipe

How can you go wrong with any appetizer that specifies LIQUEFY in all caps. These recipes come from the Osterizer Blender Spin Cookery Cookbook from 1970, the year the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl IV.

Good Housekeeping’s Appetizer Book from 1958 has some interesting choices for you. Planetary Frankfurters? Enthusiam for the Mercury Space program perhaps had spread to the appetizer world. Also, something you don’t see on the ingredient list of a recipe nowadays, Meat Roll-Ups suggest adding monosodium glutamate to the filling. 

appetizer recipes

  Again from this little recipe booklet from Good Housekeeping, these tiny fast to make little nuggets of tasty in flavor combinations that are kind of surprising and yet somehow intriguing.

nibbles recipes

And finally, because presentation is everything, Shrimp on Parade. The amount of time and effort put into spearing shrimp and delicately balancing them in all sorts of places on this basket is well worth the time. The effect is quite astonishing.

shrimp on parade

A Thanksgiving Favorite Almost Lost To History

Old Sturbridge Village


I spent many years as an educator at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts. It shows New England life in a rural town in the 1830’s and is open year round. At that time, Thanksgiving Day was set  by the Governor of each state. It was not declared a National Holiday until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency in the dark days of the Civil War. 

Imagine the baking and preparations that were made to get ready for this most important day! Old and young alike had thoughts about the marvelous and rich Marlborough Pie that was only made a few times of year. The recipe is very old and came over from England and like most, was subject to changes as each baker thought HER recipe was the best. It is very sad to have had it go out of favor and for reasons unknown. I would call this a lemon apple custard and it is so rich that a very small slice will do very nicely.

Google search “Marlborough Pudding” to get recipes and more history. I loved sippitysup’s blog about it and thank him for the use of his image.

 The following recipe was the one we used in the kitchens at Old Sturbridge Village. It is given to you with their hearty wishes for a Good Thanksgiving and the hopes that you will come to visit a this New England historical treasure.

Marlborough Pudding

One of our most requested recipes is this one for Marlborough Pudding, which is reproduced here for your own enjoyment and taken from Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery” (1796).

Original Recipe

Take 12 spoons of stewed apples, 12 of wine, 12 of sugar, 12 of melted butter, and 12 of beaten eggs, a little cream, spice to your taste; lay in paste No. 3, in a deep dish; bake one hour and a quarter.

Modern Adaptation

6 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup stewed, pureed apples
3/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 recipe for pie crust
2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (or to taste)

1. Melt butter and set aside to cool.
2. Squeeze lemon and remove seeds.
3. Add lemon to stewed apples, sherry, cream, and sugar and mix well.
4. Add melted butter to mixture, blending well.
5. Beat eggs and add to mixture.
6. Prepare pastry and line deep, 8-inch pie plate.
7. Season with grated nutmeg and spoon mixture into prepared pie plate.
8. Bake 15 minutes at 400°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 45 minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Hearth Method

1. Using a redware bowl over hot coals, melt the butter and set aside to cool.
2. Follow Steps 2-7 in the Modern Method recipe.
3. Bake 1 hour in hot bake-oven, or preheated Dutch oven, with coals on lid and below.

Yield: one 8-inch deep dish pie



A is for Applesauce, T is for Turkey

turkeyWhat Thanksgiving table would be complete without a delicious bowl of homemade applesauce? Not a single one, according to my nephew. I started making applesauce for him when he was just a baby and now it is a requested special every year.

Easy to make and let simmer while you fix other goodies to go along with the meal and easy to increase and adjust the quantity. Sounds like the perfect recipe! And the aroma – well your house will just smell it’s cinnamon-y best!


Wait! First you must obtain the apples from your local farm stand or market. How about a ….

Primer in choosing apples

Choose richly colored fruit with smooth skin that is firm to the touch.

The apple should feel heavy for its size.

Avoid fruit that is soft, or has brown around the stem or base and no holes please.

Oh yes, apples with the stem on are the best!

Now, get your apron on and grab a heavy pot and let’s get at it!


Applesauce Recipe

6 – 8 Apples * 

1 cup of water

1 TBSP lemon

1/3 cup light brown sugar **

2 TBSP granulated sugar **

1 tsp cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

*Note – I use a variety of apples depending on what is available or looks good at the time. Usually Fuji and Golden Delicious but sometimes McIntosh or Rome. (softer varieties cook down quicker)

**Note – the amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of the apples. Please adjust to your own taste.

Core and peel apples and chop into approximately ½” pieces (the smaller the pieces the quicker this cooks). Place in large pot along with the water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add in the remaining ingredients and cover. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on and stir occasionally. Add more water if needed. When apples begin to get tender you may mash them with a potato masher. We like chunky applesauce and this is the only mashing I do. If you like smoother applesauce you may wish to puree it with a stick blender.

Cool, place in airtight container and refrigerate.