Cooks’ Exchange: A last look back at ‘Recipes of a Lifetime’ –


Reflecting on the “Recipes of a Lifetime” cookbook, compiled and published in 1996 by the Wisconsin State Journal with recipes and memories from this column, has been another delicious and happy ride with an extra heartbeat or two along the way.

Everything the weekly column offered prompted the newspaper to wonder if the popularity of Cooks Exchange should be recognized in a cookbook. The result became a 350-page, soft-cover compilation with 21 chapters of recipes featured from 1993 to 1995, then published in 1996 with seasonal memories of how great it was to grow up in Madison.

The New Old East Side tugs at my heartstrings because that is where I grew up with thoughts of Ole Severson when I stop by Monty Schiro’s Blue Plate Diner that replaced Ole’s service station across from the old Eastwood Theatre. Chapters continue, ending with Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays making one wish they could experience being a youngster all over again.

With ingredients resulting from readers’ requests, heartfelt memories, and joyful sharing, this column proudly wraps up the first month of a brand new year by returning to the past once again while remembering one of Rennebohm Drug Store’s favorite menu items in the second chapter of the book.

Rennebohm’s Hot Fudge Mary Jane Brownies

Here is the brownie recipe 1930 Rennebohm Commissary employee Dorothy Jones shared with memories of singing “O Tannenbaum,” but changing the name on election night in 1947 to “O Rennebohm. O Rennebohm. We love your brownies a la mode,” when Oscar Rennebohm became governor.

1½ cups sugar

½ cup butter

3 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

¾ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup nutmeats, chopped

Cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add melted baking chocolate. Mix together dry ingredients and add to batter. Stir in vanilla and fold in nuts. Batter will be very stiff. Grease and flour 9×12-inch pan. Bake at 300-325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Use your oven as your baking guide.

Note: Hot Fudge Mary Janes were topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge.

Cake Doughnuts

Forty-two years ago, Wonewoc reader Evelyn Fick received a penny postcard from a friend with this recipe written on the back. She made them for many years, claimed they were fool-proof and made a great morning finale after a late-night teen slumber party.

4 cups sifted flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¹⁄³ cup shortening

5 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

Sift flour, then add dry ingredients. Sift again. Melt shortening. Beat egg yolks until very light and thick. Gradually add sugar, then add melted (cooled) shortening. Gradually add milk, then flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Roll out ¹⁄³-inch thick on floured board and cut with doughnut cutter. Fry a few at a time until done. While warm, roll in additional granulated sugar or powdered sugar.

Yield: 24 large doughnuts.

Olday’s Anderson Krub

The Olday household added a bit of Norwegian heritage to the Sicilian, Italian, Jewish and Black neighborhood of Milton Street in the old Greenbush neighborhood. Suppers often included krub, an ethnic favorite the entire family loved, especially Bill Olday with memories that his brothers got together to make the dumplings to bring back a little bit of the past and what they enjoyed as children.

5 pounds white potatoes

1 pound salt pork, cut in ¼-inch cubes

3-4 gallons of water

Medium-size rutabaga, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces

Grate potatoes, drain off juices and place in a large bowl. Mix enough flour with potatoes until dumplings can be formed into the size of a baseball. Heat water in large kettle. Place rutabaga pieces in water with any leftover salt pork cubes to give water a better flavor. Place six ¼-inch pork cubes in center of each dumpling and place in cooking water. When dumplings begin to float, usually in about 45 minutes or so, continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes. Serve with butter chunks on every bite, or with a milk gravy.

Note: For leftovers, slice remaining dumplings and place in greased fry pan to heat to your liking. Serve with butter chunks.

Elderberry-Apple Pie

Ruth Jungbluth’s mother, Eunice M. Yeager, treasured this recipe and shared it with her daughter more than 50 years ago. Since then it has been a favorite at church auctions and bake sales. However, the number of pies baked depended on picking the elderberries before the birds had their annual feast.

Pastry for a two crust 9- or 10-inch pie

2½-3½ cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced according to pie size

1 cup ripe elderberries, washing and stemmed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1-1½ cups sugar

Dash of salt

Line pie pan with pastry crust. In large bowl, mix sliced apples and elderberries. Sprinkle with lemon juice. In another bowl, mix sugar (vary amount according to size of pie, tartness of apples, and individual taste) flour and salt. Add to apple mixture, put in crust and cover with top crust. Cut 2 or 3 slits in top crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees; reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake additional 30-40 minutes until bubbly.

Note: If elderberries are unavailable, blueberries can be substituted.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Soup

The “Lunch with the Ladies” chapter included a favorite soup described as a delicious taste of yesterday from The Past and Present Inn in Cross Plains located a short drive from Madison on Highway 14.

½ cup margarine

¹⁄³ cup flour

1 quart of milk

2 cups chicken stock

10 slices crisp-fried bacon, crumbled

1 cup lettuce, finely chopped

½ cup tomato, finely chopped

2 tablespoons white Worcestershire

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning, optional

Melt margarine, blend in flour. Add milk, cook and stir until thickened. Bring chicken stock to a boil and add bacon and vegetables. Continue cooking to heat vegetables. Combine stock mixture with cream soup. Season.

Seasoned Tomato and Onion Salad

The “Summer Garden” chapter described my maternal Hungarian-born grandfather, Joe Kovacs, who had been the Tenney Park Greenskeeper for many years. Here is a favorite salad belonging to Mrs. Charles Mobray of Janesville.

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground basil

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon dill

¹⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 large tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick

4 thin slices Spanish onion, separated into rings

Romaine or other lettuce leaves

Mix salt, basil, sugar, dill and pepper. Place one-fourth of tomatoes and onion rings in 10x6x1-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with ¼ of herb mixture. Repeat layers three times. Cover. Refrigerate three to four hours. To serve, arrange tomatoes and onions on lettuce leaves. Spoon some of the liquid over tomatoes.

Serves 6-8

Chocolate Melt-Aways

Another chocolate cookie from the Madison Gas & Electric Company as a tried and true favorite of yesterday and today.

1 cup butter

1¼ cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup walnuts, grated

9 ounces sweet milk chocolate, melted

Cream butter. Gradually add powdered sugar. Cream dry ingredients and grated walnuts. Melt chocolate over hot water. Blend into above mixture

Chill. Shape into balls, using 1 teaspoon dough. Place on greased cookie sheet, allowing space for cookies to spread while baking. Bake at 250 degrees about 40 minutes.

Yield: 11 dozen cookies


Tracey Swanson described something she ordered at a tiny restaurant on South Park Street back in the 1950s and asked for help. Steven Keip responded with his recipe for muffaletta with olive salad.

24 ounces Genoa-style salami

24 ounces sugar-cured ham

24 ounces Provolone cheese

Olive salad (recipe below)

8 Kaiser rolls

To assemble sandwich, have butcher or deli person thinly slice salami, ham and cheese. Arrange 3 ounces each on Kaiser rolls. Top with 2 tablespoons of Olive Salad. Makes 8 sandwiches

Olive Salad

1 cup green salad olives, drained and finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Drain olives well and chop finely. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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