Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Chocolate Cake with Quick as a Wink Chocolate Frosting

I made this chocolate cake and ice cream for my husband’s birthday. He LOVES and has to have the SAME birthday cake every year and usually opts for Jenny’s Cake with Chocolate Frosting, but this year I talked him into trying these two recipes from Grandma’s file. Chocolate Cake with Quick as a Wink Chocolate Frosting are two great recipes to make for anyone’s birthday cake!

Chocolate Cake

Quick As A Wink Chocolate Frosting

This frosting recipe came off of a card that actually has 3 different frosting recipes on it!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Chocolate Cake with Quick as a Wink Chocolate Frosting

Put all together in mixing bowl and beat for 7 minutes:

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs

2 cups flour (scant)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup salt

2 squares baking chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon soda in hot water (there is no amount for the water, so I used about 1/2 cup)

There is no temperature or time to bake, either, so I baked the cake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Quick as a Wink Chocolate Frosting

Combine and melt:

6 ounces chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons milk

Stir in:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Beat until smooth.


At first when mixing these ingredients, the baking chocolate looks like it’s not going to mix in. It kind of looks like chocolate chip batter, but the hot water (and make sure it’s HOT) and mixing it so long helps the chocolate incorporate.


I’m not sure about this cake – it looks kind of flat and rubbery.


This frosting has the “Good” connotation – and it is good and fudge-y! Spread it quickly because it is so fudge-y – it firmed up fast.


The cake didn’t rise as much as I thought it would (it’s dense and almost looks like a brownie) – you can see the bubble holes in it – I’m not sure if I did something wrong.


This cake and frosting is delicious!! You can find a recipe for home-made ice cream here, because as we all know, you can’t have birthday cake without the ice cream!


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Hot Bath Tomatoes

We had a garden every summer when I was growing up, both of my grandmas and grandpas had gardens every summer when I was growing up, and I have a garden every summer. There would be tomatoes coming out of our ears from these gardens (all except mine – I’ve lost all the sun needed to grow tomatoes – too many trees). We had to do something to preserve these tomatoes, so canning was the best option. Grandma did this every year, she taught my mom how to do it, and she taught me and my sister how to do it. Who knew that they were called Hot Bath Tomatoes – we just called them canned tomatoes!! We would have an assembly line going to tackle this huge project: someone would be putting the tomatoes into the boiling water to get the peel off easily, then someone would be putting the tomatoes into the ice water bath to stop the tomatoes from cooking too much. We would all have paring knives to peel the skin off of the tomatoes and cut them into fourths. Then the tomatoes were heated just to boiling and popped into the clean, sterilized jars, the rims were wiped clean with a damp towel, the lids were taken from boiling water and put onto the top of the jars, and at last the lids were screwed on. That was my favorite part back then, seeing the jars lined up and ready to go into the canner. If felt good to have helped make these things we would have to eat later in the winter. There was such a camaraderie with the whole family helping. It was hot work with the canner heating up the kitchen (it was usually done in late August or early September), and it was a lot of work to get it all done, but I LOVED it!!! I just loved it.

Hot Bath Tomatoes

These tomatoes are so great for making all of those sauces and soups later in the winter!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Hot Bath Tomatoes

Peel and cut tomatoes (for easier peeling, put into boiling water for 30-45 seconds, then into an ice bath to stop the cooking).

Bring tomatoes just to a boil.

Put into jars (quarts or pints) and leave 1/2 inch of head space at the top of the jar.

Put jars in canner, having water covering jars with 2 inches of water.

Boil for 45 minutes in canner.

You can find the recommendations for this on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Cool and listen for the “pop” of the lid sealing.


I haven’t canned tomatoes this year (I did make a batch of Grandma’s Tomato Soup), but I did do them last year and I have just one jar left.


You can see the tomatoes cut into fourths and how they make their own juice. There’s nothing but tomatoes in here!


We use a lot of tomatoes throughout the year in spaghetti sauce, lasagna, soups, hot dish, the list goes on and on. Canning tomatoes this way is a tomato saver AND a money saver!


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Clara’s “Goofy” Pound Cake

It was so funny to find this recipe called “goofy”! Like the clipping says – there’s nothing “goofy” about this recipe. It’s so easy and so good. Clara’s “Goofy” Pound Cake is great for any time of year. In the spring you could drizzle on a rhubarb compote, in the summer you could top it with strawberries or blueberries, in the fall you could top it with caramel sauce and chopped pecans (as I did at the end of this post), and in the winter you could indulge in some hot fudge and peppermint. Yes – pound cake is good ANY time of the year!!!

Clara's Goofy Pound Cake

This is a good one.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Clara’s “Goofy” Pound Cake

Mix together in a large bowl:

2 cups flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

4 eggs

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine (I used butter)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat for 10 minutes with an electric mixer.

Pour into a greased tube pan (I had some leak out of the pan and onto the bottom of my oven, so I recommend putting the tube pan on a baking sheet).

Place into a cold oven set at 350 degrees (that means that you put the cake into the cold oven, THEN turn the oven on) and bake for 1 hour.


You can find a video that shows you how to get a cake out of a tube pan here.


It makes a nice, silky, smooth batter.


I can never get all of the batter into the pan without getting it all over the pan. It makes such a beautiful cake.


This cake is easy to slice and is so delicious.


For the fall, as mentioned above, this cake is great topped with caramel and chopped pecans. And a bit of whipped cream never hurt, either.


Try this recipe for a very versatile cake. You can take it anywhere and top it with anything!




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Compound Butter

You can do so many things with herbs. This Compound Butter is one thing I do every year with the herbs grown on my deck. I grow them in pots right outside my kitchen door and it’s so handy to use them all summer long! I have shown you the pots in a post called Herb Pots. Now is the time to bring the herbs into the kitchen to either use this way, make treats like pesto, or dry them for later use. Of course, you can make this all year round, but I do it now to make use of the herbs before the growing season is done. I hate to be making this – that means that fall is here and winter isn’t far behind. Ugh. I’ll just type the recipe out here before the snow flies – cuz it won’t be long:

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Compound Butter

Soften 1/2 cup butter.

Mix in:

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons each of one or more herbs, chopped – basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, sage – any one or all of the above

You could also make it with 1/2 cup of chopped fruit – strawberries, peaches, pineapple, blueberries.

If adding fruit, I would suggest putting it into the food processor with the softened butter.

Fruit butters are great on muffins, scones, or pancakes.

Here are some combinations I’ve tried and loved:

Strawberry – Mint

Blueberry – Cinnamon

Honey – Cinnamon

Pineapple – Sage

You can mix fruits. You can mix herbs. You can mix them together. Go crazy!!!

The possibilities are endless – try them all!


Wash and dry the herbs before chopping and adding to the softened butter.


I put the mixed butter onto a sheet of waxed paper and make a tube by twisting the ends.


Twisting the ends helps make it into a nice round tube of butter. Then I just pop the whole tube into a labeled freezer bag and we’re off to the freezer.


Just take out the butter and slice as much as you need, then it’s right back into the freezer.


I put the butter slices right onto the steaks on the grill so they have plenty of time to melt into the meat and make it delicious.


The butter melts and makes the steak so buttery and garlicky and herby and tasty! This butter is also good on garlic bread or pasta or popcorn or anything that you’d put butter on. It’s so good!




Salad #3

The recipe for today is #3 in the long line of salad recipes in Grandma’s file. Salad #3 is another incredibly easy one. I’m not even kidding. REALLY easy. And I’m gonna go ahead and put in into the Retro Oddities category. It’s one of several salad recipes that includes ice cream!! I think I’d rather just go ahead and put a scoop of ice cream on top of a salad – Jello salad, that is, but that’s just me.

I can see this recipe being around about the time this photo was taken of my mom in high school (speaking of someone who would rather eat just the ice cream – ha!). The date on the top of the photo is October of 1957, so this was during high school. Her trombone is at her side there next to the brand new television set. You always had to take photos next to the tv so you could get that great new technology in the shot. This demure young lady is the epitome of the term “bobby soxer”!! Mom always talks about those skirts they wore and how many crinolines (petticoats) they wore under them.


LOVE the skirt – and the BOBBY SOX – and the new TV!!!

Salad #4

Note the “V. Good” connotation again here!!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Salad #3

Mix together and bring to a boil:

1 can of fruit cocktail

1 package of strawberry Jello


1 pint vanilla ice cream

Mix well until ice cream is melted.


That’s it! Incredibly easy!


This has you boil the fruit cocktail with a Jello – so weird.


How strange is putting in ice cream? Oh well. It did say “V. Good”!


It turns a creamy pink on top. I used a pretty glass bowl that was about 4 sizes too big. This does make a smaller salad.


Such a pretty color – hot pink! I mean REALLY bright hot pink! This looks like something straight out of the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s.


It turned out to be delicious, but it is also “plenty sweet”. Never second guess the “V. Good” connotation! This salad is really easy and really good and just prefect for any occasion.





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Peanut Butter Dreams

This is another recipe that came from me!! I didn’t remember these Peanut Butter Dreams or where the recipe came from, but once I made them, I definitely remembered them and how good they are. We have a thing about bars in Minnesota. You’ll find them at most large gatherings: family dinners, church events, fundraisers. But here’s the thing about bars – it isn’t pronounce it the way you’d think. It’s not pronounced “barz”, but “barse”!!! It may not be a Minnesota thing – it may be a Scandinavian thing or maybe a farm thing, but it can be heard at church gatherings throughout the state! You can just see the little ladies asking “would you like some barse?”.

Peanut Butter Dreams

Peanut Butter Dreams 2

Oh my gosh – these are so good!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Peanut Butter Dreams

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup coconut

6 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and peanut butter; add 1/2 cup brown sugar gradually.

Beat until fluffy.

Add one cup flour in halves, mixing until blended after each addition.

Press evenly into greased 9″ x 9″ x 2″ baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, beat eggs, vanilla, and 1 cup brown sugar until thick.

Add a mixture of 1/3 cup flour and baking powder, beat until blended.

Stir in coconut and chocolate chips.

Spread evenly over partially baked layer in pan.

Bake 30 more minutes.

Cool completely and then cut into bars.


You can pat the dough into the pan like Play-Doh. It makes a delicious crust.


Before and after baking the topping – so good.


You can kind of see the layers here.


I recommend trying these warm. And gooey. And melty. And warm.


It’s a good thing that these only make a 9″ x 9″ pan. You can have a few of these unbelievably delicious bars, and then be done with them, but it will be really hard to not make another pan. Try these. I dare you.



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Brown Sugar Cookies

The recipe for today is another one comes from one of Grandma’s sisters. These cookies are so good! I love the little tip at the end where they tell you that you can make the dough into rolls and keep them in the freezer to pull out and bake when you are short on time or just need a little bit of deliciousness.

Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies 2

Love these!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Brown Sugar Cookies

Mix together:

1 cup butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Scant 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour

Chill for 1 hour.

Roll in balls and roll balls in sugar.

Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.


This is a soft dough, so it is important to chill the dough and firm it up.


Roll the balls in sugar.


They get crackled and golden.


These cookies seriously melt in your mouth.


If I were you, I would make these AND make a second batch to put into the freezer for baking later. These are one of my new favorites! They’re unbelievably good. Really.






Beet Pickles

Today’s recipe is a bit controversial in our household. My husband hates beets. He didn’t want me to make these, but Grandma had 5 recipes for beets and Beet Pickles in her file. The idea is to make EVERY recipe in her file, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll just have to make only one beet recipe per year. Everyone we know may be getting some beet pickles. I remember that both of my grandmas made beet pickles and that they were only for special occasions. I didn’t mind them. They weren’t my favorite thing, but I didn’t mind them. I loved the spicy, almost christmasy flavor of them.

Beet Pickles

We’ll see if the hubs decides to try some of these.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Beet Pickles

This recipe calls for cooked beets to begin with, so I looked online to see how to do it – I’ve never cooked beets before (because my husband won’t eat them). The consensus was that you should boil them 25 minutes or until the skins come off easily. I did this, peeled them, cut them in half or quarters and we were ready to go.

The recipe also calls for pickling spices, so I made my own, but you can certainly use store-bought. I followed a recipe I found on the Taste of Home website.

Put 1/2 teaspoon of pickling spice in bottom of each pint jar.

Put cooked, peeled, cut up beets in jars.

Bring to boil:

2 cups vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar for these)

2 cup water

1 3/4 cups sugar

Put hot mixture over beets and seal (the National Center for Home Food Preservation says 30 minutes in the hot water bath for these).


We planted beets in the garden this year, but they didn’t grow very well (too shady). I had to buy these at the farmer’s market. The lighter colored ones are golden beets.


When cooked, the skins get dusty and almost come off in your hand. You can see here that I used my worst and most beat up cutting board so if the beets stained the board, no big deal.


Just don’t let this happen. I changed into my worst working shirt and pants so if I splattered on myself, I wouldn’t care if they got stained. So what happened? I dropped a beet on my rug taking them out of the pot! Oh well, I was ready to get a new rug anyway. Now I have to – this isn’t coming off! You’ve been warned!


Look at the pretty golden beets! What a great combo. I wonder if the golden beets will stay golden or if they’ll turn pink, too?


Keep 1/2 inch head space at the top of the jar when adding the liquid.


Voila! All done and ready to go! Can’t wait to try these! Now if I can just talk my husband into trying some . . .



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Fresh Apple Cake

It’s the time of year for apples!!! I have heard that the orchards here in Minnesota have had a great year and the apples are beautiful and plentiful. Yay! I love apples! I remember when we first moved to the lake in 1969, I would come home from school every day and the first thing I would do is have a snack. This is shocking, I know, but even more shocking is that the snack of choice was first and foremost an apple. I have to say that I really don’t remember what kind of apples they were, but I do remember that they were very soft (something I can’t stand now) and they had the strange faint taste of lilac. How weird. And how weird that I would remember that! Ha! This recipe for Fresh Apple Cake is one that Grandma got from one of her sisters, and is another of my new favorites. Like my son said when he had a piece of this cake, it’s so perfect for “now”, meaning this time of year. Apple time.

Fresh Apple Cake

This is another easy and incredibly tasty recipe!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Fresh Apple Cake

Break 2 eggs over top of:

4 cups of apples, diced

Stir in:

2 cups sugar (she has that maybe 1 3/4 cups is enough – I used 1 1/2)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup salad oil (I used canola)

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

nuts, optional

Mix together for topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup nuts, chopped, more if not using in batter (I didn’t put any in the batter so I used 1 cup chopped walnuts)

Put in greased and floured 9″ x 13″ pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


Apples are just so good and so pretty!


It is a bit unusual to put the eggs over the apples and not mix them in to the batter.


The batter is pretty thick.


Love the topping – it’s so crunchy and good!


This is another great snack cake. I’d have this for a snack instead of just a plain apple!


You can see the chunks of apple and nuts and the pieces of crunchy brown sugar. Peeling the apples takes 3 times as long as mixing the whole thing together, it’s so easy to mix up. Try this great snack cake – it’s great for apple time!




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Turmeric Pickles

The recipe for today is another old one, judging by the use of the fountain pen. I’m sure Grandma wrote this recipe card out as she was preparing for her life as a wife and mother.  This photo of Grandma was taken on the farm where she grew up, about the time she got married.


I’m sure as a young bride she was making new and interesting things like these pickles for her handsome new husband! These Turmeric Pickles seem a bit exotic for Grandma. They use a lot of spices and some of them are a bit unusual. I didn’t know what cassia buds were, so I had to look it up. Cassia buds are the unopened flowers of the cinnamon tree – a bit more floral than regular cinnamon. Well, I was doing these right away and didn’t want to order them online and have to wait, or spend an entire day driving around trying to find them, so I just used stick cinnamon.

Turmeric Pickles

Turmeric Pickles 2

I can’t wait to taste these!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Turmeric Pickles

Put in salt water for 2 hours:

1 dozen cucumbers, sliced very thin

1/2 dozen onions, sliced very thin


Boil all together:

2 cups white vinegar

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon whole mustard seed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cassia buds (I used a half of a cinnamon stick in each jar instead)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Add drained cucumbers and onions to spice mixture.

Heat thoroughly.

Put in jars and seal.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, these should be in a hot water bath for 10 minutes when sealing the jars.


My preference is a mandolin to get nice, thin slices.


I only made a half recipe and it still looked like a mountain of cucumbers.


This was my biggest bowl holding all the cucumbers and onions.


Into the hot water bath they go!


Use old towels unless you don’t care about getting yellow stains on your good ones. Turmeric does stain, and one of these jars leaked a bit before the “pop” and being sealed.


The turmeric immediately starts to turn the cucumbers a golden yellow.


They’re so beautiful!! I can’t wait to taste these spicy pickles!! Try this very old and exotic recipe with your cucumbers this year!



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