Applesauce Raisin Squares with Brown Butter Frosting


I have had this recipe since high school and it came from McCall’s magazine.  For a long time I used the clipping from the magazine until I started transferring my recipes to 4″ x 6″ cards and I added that it came from McCall’s.  The magazine has been out of publication now for over a decade.  But in its hay day it offered great recipes that anyone could make. I would read them every summer at my Aunt Helen’s house.  McCall’s and Redbook would publish every month a small novel for their readers.  I loved those stories and read them every one I could get my hands on.  The good thing my Aunt would save the magazines for her church paper drive.  Only she would never seem to get them to the church so I had at least 10 years worth I could read while I was visiting her.  When she wasn’t looking I would cut out a recipe or 2 that I wanted.  I think by the 1980’s they stopped publishing the monthly short novels in the magazine. I didn’t buy as many after that.

The recipe is moist and just the thing for summer days and a take along to picnics because it will feed a crowd.  You will need a sheet cake pan 10″ x 15″ or a jelly roll pan.  The frosting is easy to make and just the right flavor to slather on top.  It is just as good with just a dusting of powered sugar but you will need to wait to do that until you are ready to serve.  The sugar disappears into the squares over time.  What also dates this recipe to the mid 20th century is the shortening.  Cookie and cake recipes called for shortening instead of butter.  I have tried butter but I like the texture of the shortening for this recipe because it is less crumbly.

You don’t just have to serve it in squares, the cake can be rolled up as a jelly roll.  Just turn the warm cake out onto a flour sack towel while it is warm and roll it up.  Make the filling and gently unroll the cake, spread filling and roll back up.  You can also slice the sheet cake into three pieces that are 5 inches wide after the cake is cool.  Frost between each layer as you stack them ending with frosting on the top.  This makes an old fashion “Spanish Bar Cake.” Spanish Bar Cake was very popular and every bakery offered their version of the rich spice cake with raisins in the 1940’s and 1950’s. I think it is still popular in some parts of the country. Anyone who collects old fund raising cookbooks will find a recipe for Spanish Spice Cake or Bar Cake in that era of cook book. When ever any family came for a visit my mother would run to the store and buy a Spanish Bar Cake for dessert. For me this recipe brings back wonderful memories of picnics and visitors.

Applesauce Raisin Squares

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 egg

1 1/2 cups applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups raisins

1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Prepare jelly roll pan or sheet cake pan with vegetable spray.

Cream shortening and sugar together with an electric mixer.  Add eggs and beat.  Add applesauce and vanilla and mix. Sift together flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Now add slowly the sifted ingredients to the other mixture about a half a cup at a time until all of it is mixed in. Stir in raisins and nuts.

Spread in pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until it springs back when gently touched on the surface.  Cool.

Brown Butter Frosting

3/4 cup butter (no substitute)

3 1/4 cups sifted Confectioner’s sugar

4 to 5 tablespoons of light cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly brown butter in a small skillet on low heat. In a mixer add butter with sugar.  While mixing add 4 tablespoons of cream and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  If needed add more cream to make it the right spreading consistency. Spread on cool cake and serve.

Homemade Dishwasher Soap – Very Inexpensive


I make my own dish washer detergent for pennies compared to the products that are offered for sale. It is an easy recipe and the ingredients are at your local store.  I make it once or twice a month so I have the recipe taped on the storage container.  In this case a recycled trail mix container.

There are plenty of recipe variation on the internet for this.  I was real happy with the one I tried so I didn’t look any further. I do have soft water so I didn’t need to adjust it.  For the rinse dispenser I use only white vinegar.

I was skeptic at first but I needed to find ways to stretch my grocery budget and this offered a way to save $10.  I had been using the cheapest liquid or powder soap I could find.  After a while I noticed a build up of soap deposits under the soap dispenser on the door.  This didn’t use to happen but a few years ago phosphates were finally removed from dishwasher soap. The new packets did a better job then the liquids or powders that lacked phosphates.  The new packets were double the price or more. I already had all the household products except the Lemon Shine and I found that at Walmart. There was really no reason not to give it a try.

The first time I used my home made powder it did not do a very good job.  I have a 2 cup dispenser.  One is for the first wash and the second dispenses later in the cycle for a second wash. So I put a commercial packet in the second one and used my home made soap in the first.  It worked fine then. I figured it would make the commercial packets more affordable because I was only using half as much.   What I didn’t realize was the build up in the dishwasher had to be cleaned out and that was ending up on the dishes. I did notice after a couple of weeks of using both that the build up of crusty soap deposits was dissolving away from under the dispenser.  I then went to using just the home made formula soap. One of the recipes I read suggested that a drop of Dawn would help it.  I was careful just to put a drop in each dispenser. Some times I forget but it seems to work just fine with out it. It is just an added insurance because it has a strong degreaser in it.

One of the things that this powder does is it absorbs moisture and hardens up.  Now some recipes will show you to use a silicone ice cube tray to make cubes of the soap. You need to let them air dry for a couple of day.  You make a paste using white vinegar to pat into the tray.  I don’t have the trays to mess with that and I can’t get the harden powder out of the container very easy.  My solution was measuring out the powder into little sheets of wax paper to fold up into little packets. The soap hardens up in the packets and all you do is unwrap them to place in the washer. Making the packets go quickly.

I have been making this soap now for a year and the saving do add up.


Recipe for dishwasher soap

1/2 cup of Borax

1/2 cup of Washing Soda

1/4 cup of Lemon Shine

1/4 cup of table salt with out iodine ( Large chunk salts will etch your dishes)


Mix well together.


This recipe makes about 22 packets. You will need to cut that many by taring off 11 sheets of wax paper and then cutting them in half.  I tare off about 6 inches and fold them in half to cut.  It makes them close to a square and easy to work with. Measure one tablespoon of power for each packet.


I just fold them into a packet making sure the powder stays in the middle.

This is very cheap to do and the boxes of borax and washing soda last for a long time because you are not using very much each time. I just make it when it when my container gets low.  You can double the recipe and make more at a time but I just make enough for my container.

How to Make High Efficiency Liquid Laundry Soap for Pennies.


When I was really young in the early 1950’s I remember helping my mom make laundry soap out of Fels-Napha bar soap, Octagon bar soap or Ivory bar soap. Octagon is no longer being made. For baby diapers she would use Ivory bar soap. She would make it up in a bucket every couple of months. She would grate it and cook it and mix it up in a bucket of water. I never thought to ask her about it later in life. It was just something that was history along with her Maytag Ringer Washer. I can still smell that soap in my mind.

Like women of her generation she became attached to the lunchtime stories or also call soap operas because they were sponsored by soap manufactures. Television was the new exciting thing to have in the home. They came on at noon until one o’clock. Each one was 15 minutes long. If she missed one the neighbors would fill her in on what happened. She would once in a while try a laundry detergent that she had a coupon for that was being advertized on her stories. Once we were all in school she went back to work. That ended the soap making. I was in high school when she bought her first washer and dryer set. Cooked starch and boiling socks on the stove to remove grime had become an old fashion memory. We did continue to starch pillow cases and hang them up to dry and later dampen and iron them. My pillow cases are hand made embroidered with crochet lace and need this kind of care, so I still do that.

Fast forward to this century and the current economy. I had worked with a young lady from Mexico at a garbage truck company. She told me she didn’t buy expensive laundry soup but used Zote bar soap. It is made in Mexico and I had seen it in all the local stores next to the Fels-Napha soap. It is made from coconut oil and tallow with some brighteners. It gets it’s name from the Spanish word “jabonzote” meaning big soap. Large bars of soap was used to hand wash cloths that was easy to hold. She thought we were all loco for spending all that money on bubbles. She explained all about how she made her laundry soap. Years ago after I bought my HE(high efficiency) washer and dryer set, I ran across a blog on the internet with a recipe for laundry soap. I was running out of ideas on making ends meet and HE laundry detergent was very expensive and the traditional laundry products could not be used. I researched until I found a recipe that used Zote bar soap. Now there is all kinds of instructions on line that you can google for recipes using Zote and Fels-Napha.


Fels-Naptha is an American brand of bar laundry soap used for pre-treating stains on clothing and as a home remedy for exposure to poison ivy and other skin irritants. Fels-Naptha is manufactured by and is a trademark of the Dial Corporation, a subsidiary ofHenkel. The soap was originally created around 1893 by Fels and Co. and was the first soap to include naphtha. The inclusion of naphtha made the soap very effective for cleaning laundry, but it was not generally safe for personal use.

Borax was first discovered in dry lake beds in Tibet, and according to legend, imported to Babylon more than 4,000 years ago. In the 8th century CE (or AD), Arab traders imported borax from Tibet via the Silk Road where goldsmiths used it as a soldering agent and to refine precious metals and ores.

Explorer Marco Polo brought borax back with him from Mongolia, where it was used for centuries in the manufacture of stain-resistant porcelain glazes.

In the 15th century borax was widely imported to Europe for glassmaking. It was used 300 years before that in China to help glass endure extreme temperatures without cracking. It was also used in glazing and ceramics. However, the price was far too high for general use. In the 19th century, new borate deposits were found in Italy, Turkey, and towards the end of the 19th century, the Americas. This is when borates became available and affordable enough for general use.

In laundry, washing soda accomplishes several things. The high alkalinity of washing soda helps it act as a solvent to remove a range of stains, and unlike bleach, washing soda does not usually stain. It is also used in detergent mixtures to treat hard water; the washing soda binds to the minerals which make water hard, allowing detergent to foam properly so that clothing will come out clean, without any residue. Sodium carbonate is also used by some textile artists, since it helps dyes adhere to fabric, resulting in deeper penetration and a longer lasting color.

This is very inexpensive to do. The bar of soap is around a dollar. The box of borax and washing soda are around $4 each maybe a little less depending on where you buy it. They both will last a long time because you don’t use that much. I use both for making dish washer soap. You can find other way to use them to clean with on the internet. The actual cost for making 2 gallons of HE laundry soap was only about $0.35. This soap doesn’t make bubbles but you can use it in your top loader washer. Don’t expect bubbles. Bubbles really don’t clean your cloths they are just chemicals that is added to make bubbles. That was a real selling point in the early years of commercially made soap. Ladies liked the bubbles and thought it made the cloths cleaner. The bubbles could be difficult to rinse out in laundry tubs. It could take up to 4 rinses and ringing out with the ringer to get the bubbles out. I remember my mother adding a half a cup of white vinegar in the final rinse water. This would rinse the soap out and soften the cloths.

I experimented with it and came up with a liquid laundry soap recipe that was right for my soft water and machine. If you decide to try this you will figure out how to adjust it to meet you laundry needs. All the recipes you will find on the internet make 10 gallons only I didn’t have the storage for all those containers. I didn’t want to make that much starting out either. I think a small batch is easier to handle in a small kitchen. At first you don’t want to make big batches because you are just trying this out and may want to adjust the recipe. It doesn’t take as much room to store the sliced bar and the other few ingredients for the next time. It doesn’t take long to mix up but you have to let it sit over night before you can finish it and pour into recycled laundry bottles. I use the bottles that juice comes in from Ocean Spray. I don’t have to worry about pouring from a gallon milk jug.

This laundry soap is concentrated so you only need ½ cup for top loading machines and ¼ cup for HE machines. My machine tells me what size my load is and then I put the amount of soap needed. So it all depends on your machine.

What you will need to make the HE laundry soap:

  1. A large plastic container with a lid that can hold at least a gallon of liquid. I have a couple of 2 gallon pickle buckets with lids that came from a sandwich shop for free. You can also get buckets with lids free from your deli or bakery in your grocery store. Just ask for them and keep going back until they give you one. You can use a regular plastic bucket that you will have to seal with plastic wrap and string.
  2. A cheese grater. The bar soap is easy to grate and is softer then cheese.
  3. One pan that can hold 3 quarts of water and a large spoon with a long handle.
  4. One bar of Zote or Fels-Napha soap. I like Zote the best.
  5. Measuring cups, funnel, and enough bottles or jars with tight lids to hold 2 gallons of liquid. I like fruit juice plastic bottles. You can see through them and they are sturdy and won’t break like glass. You have to shake the bottles before use.
  6. Box of 20 Mule Team Borax.
  7. Box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda.
  8. Small container of Oxiclean. I use this for the laundry soap that I make for whites only. Zoto comes in three colors white, pink, and blue. I use the white to mix in oxiclean. That way the family don’t grab the wrong one for general washing. They know to use the pink for colors and white for whites.
  9. Scented oils or extracts like vanilla. Oils are sold at Walmart with the candles. This is optional. Right now I am using the Fresh Linen scent for my white soap and Lilac for my pink soap that I found for $2. A little bottle lasts a long time.

The first thing you do is divide your bar of soap into 5 equal parts. I used a ruler for this and try to slice straight. You can eye ball it and it should be fine. You are only going to use one slice so the rest of them can be put into a sandwich bag to store. I am making 2 different batches. The white soap will be for laundering white cottons and the pink will be for general laundry.


Then you grate them on a cheese grater into a bowl.


Place a quart of water into a pan and heat. When little bubbles start to boil on the bottom of the pan the water should be hot enough. Add your grated soap and stir. Keep stirring until the soap is dissolved. I usually turn the stove off after I start to stir. I takes a few minutes for the soap to melt completely.


Now you add a quarter cup of borax into the mixture and stir some more. Borax is slow to dissolve in hot water. You will know when it has because your spoon will not scrap across the grit in the bottom of the pan. It will also get thick.


At this point you can now pour this in your large plastic container. I then heat 3 pints of water in the same pan until it just starts to bubble on the bottom. While you are waiting for that.


Stir in a half of cup of washing soda in the soap mixture and a scoop of oxiclean if you are using it. As you stir the mixture it will get real thick. By the time the water is hot enough you should have everything dissolved in the plastic container.


Now add your hot water and stir. When it is all blended you can add 3 more pints of water from the tap. If you wish you can add scented oil to make your cloths smell really good. You just add 10 drops or add a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Stir again until blended. Now just seal the lid on and let it sit over night or until the next day when you have time to bottle it.


Now the interesting part when you take the lid off you will find that the top of the soap has a thick layer like marshmallow on top.


You will have to stir it down until the mixture is creamy again. This will take about 10 minutes to do. Now you are ready to bottle.

You fill your bottle half full of water first and then finish filling with this concentrated soap. You will need a funnel for this and a small cup to do this with. It is like slime at this point and stringy when you go to pour it. So make sure you do this in the sink or some where that the mess won’t hurt. Once you get your bottle full, you can put the lid on and shake well. This will make 2 gallons.


The soap will separate so you will have to give it a good shake before you use it. That is another reason I like the juice bottles, they are stronger and not as heavy to shake.

Since I have the pickle bucket that holds 2 gallons, I just add another gallon of water in the bucket and stir. It takes awhile to get it all mixed then I bottle it. I put the bucket into the sink before I add the water. I find it easier to get into the bottles. A paint mixer for my hand drill is on my wish list which make stirring easier and faster.

My recipe is very mild because I have soft water. You can increase the washing soda if your water is hard. The borax brightens the cloths and the washing soda (sodium carbonate) lowers the ph of the water. All washing soda is soda ash which only contains sodium carbonate and you can find it in the pool section of most box stores. Now I have seen recipes that also calls for additional baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) if your water is hard. You can add oxiclean if you want. I only use it for whites.

This truly is a real money saver when your budget is tight. Some people now make it because it is all natural and good for the environment, others make it because of soap allergies. I make it because it saves me several hundred dollars a year.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies


They are as good as they look.  In fact one of the kids swiped two before I got the picture taken. The 9 inch by 13 inch pan of blondies didn’t last long.  The cookie dough base is a chewy peanut butter and oatmeal covered in chocolate chips and dry roasted peanuts.  If you don’t have the peanuts you can use chopped nuts of your choice. It is also fast and easy to make.

Prepare a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish or pan with vegetable spray or grease with shortening. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.



1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup rolled oats

Sift together the first 3 then add rolled oats in a separate bowl. Then set aside to be added later to the creamed mixture.

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup brown sugar packed

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together in a large bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  On low speed, gradually add flour mixture until blended. This will be a very thick batter.  Spread evenly in the baking dish/pan.


1 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup dry roasted peanuts or nuts

Sprinkle them evenly over the batter and pat down into the batter so the topping is not loose.  You want the topping to cook into the batter.


Bake in a 350 degree oven on the middle rack for 25 minutes until the blondies are brown around the edges. They puff up while baking but will settle down right after you take them out of the oven.  Cool and cut into squares.  My family loves them warm and gooey.


Holiday Cookie Baking In A Hurry And Short Bread Jelly Tarts.


This year I hurt my knee and was not up to doing my usual baking for Thanksgiving.  I was supposed to stay off my feet but you know how that goes.   I just propped myself up on a stool in the kitchen and did the cooking.  There was know one else to do it.  I had some bags of cookie mix that I had bought at a big discount this summer.  This was as good a time as ever to use them up.  The kids got out the butter, eggs and cookie sheets.  It was easy for me to mix and roll out.  I didn’t have to move around the kitchen like I would have baking from scratch.  Cutting  out and baking went fast.  I used canned frosting and what sprinkles I still had on hand that would work for Fall.

One of the tricks I used was placing a fan in front of the cookies to get the canned frosting to harden up quickly. It will firm up the frosting in about a hour or two so you can easily pack them between wax paper in containers.  I like to make royal frosting and others types that harden and firm up.  I now found that with a little help from a fan you can have the same results with bought frosting.  The idea is to keep them from sticking to the wax paper or each other with the soft frosting.  I didn’t want to leave them out to dry over night.  I just wanted to get the cookie making over with.



Another thing I made from cookie mix was tarts.  I have a set of pumpkin shaped tart pans that I have had for a while.


These are small individual serving tart pans.  You can use any size of tart pan that you have. To make the crust for the tarts I used a short bread mix that you can find during the Christmas season.  I bought this mix with the others last summer in a close out sale.  I also was able to get almond paste at that sale.


I followed the direction for the short bread and patted them into the tart pans on the bottom and up the sides.  I only have 4 pumpkin shaped ones so I used 2 standard round tart pans that were the same size.  I then filled them with some jam.  I used pineapple and mango jam that I make during summer because it looked the right color for pumpkins.  You just need a nice coating of the jam over the short bread.  The short bread puffs up and fills the pan while baking.

The next step was to decorate them with the almond past.  To do that you have to mix with electric mixer 2 egg whites with the tube of paste.  This takes a few minutes to break up and soften the paste.  It will get light and slightly fluffy.  I put it in a pastry bag that had a decorator star tip on it.  I just decorated the edges and piped the design I wanted on the tarts.

I baked them for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees until the almond piping was lightly browned.   Let cool and then remove from pans. To do that you just push the bottoms up from the ring.  Cut them into pieces when you get ready to serve like short bread.  The short bread tarts is eaten like a cookie.  The almond past is slightly crunchy but still light and give a special flavor touch to the cookie tart.  The tarts turned out to be a favorite for Thanksgiving.



My little hoard of cookie mixes came in handy.  I was still able to spoil the kids.  I always buy cookie mix and cake mix after the holiday or season is over and take advantage of the deep discounts.  I always mark on the package with a dark crayon the expiration date so I can see it in the cupboard.  That way I know to use it before it expires.  All these mixes were going to expire in December. I paid less then a dollar for them.  The almond paste was 50 cents and that was 90% off the normal price.  I bought 5 tubes because that was all they had and put them in the freezer.  I have 3 left to use for Christmas.

I have a bunch of cake mixes that I have gotten marked down so I will probably turn all those into cookies for Christmas this year.

Fresh Apple Pie


Apple pie is a simple pie to make.  With the pie dough in the dairy case at the grocery, it don’t take long to make.  I used Mackintosh apples because they are tart.   Some people like Granny Smith for the same reason.  You don’t have to be afraid to try making this pie even if you have never made a pie before.  It is also cheaper to make them then buying bakery pies and it tastes better because you are in control of the sugar and spice.  I can usually get 2 pies from a large bag of apples.  I normally will make my own pie dough but sometimes I need to put a pie together quickly.  Refrigerated pie dough is a great help and time saver.

I usually take the pie dough out of the refrigerator while I peel the apples and slice them.  The dough unrolls easier if you let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes first.

Normally for a 8 inch pie it takes about 7 or 8 apples.  It really depends on the size of the apples and the size of pie pan you are using.  You can usually tell when you have enough sliced.

Pre Heat oven 350 degrees.  This temperature works the best for my oven.

I mix in a separate bowl for a 8 inch pie.

3/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of flour 

1 teaspoon Apple pie spice or cinnamon.

Stir the dry ingredients together.  Then mix in the apples and make sure they are all coated.  Arrange apples in uncooked pie crust and pour any flour mixture left in the bowl on top.

Now dot with butter pieces on top of apples.  I usually use 2 tablespoons of cold butter that I cut up in little pieces.  Care fully sprinkle 1 teaspoon of vanilla on top of apples, making sure to get a little all over the top of the apples.

I use a pie bird so this is usually when I put it in the center of the apples almost to the bottom.  Now add the top crust and crimp the edges and cut slits in the top.  I use the dough that I trim off to cut out little apples or leaves with very small cookie cutters.  I place them on top.  I brush the top of my pie with egg wash using 1 egg and a little water.  Then sprinkle some finishing sugar on top.  To keep the pie edges from getting too dark and tough. I use strips of foil to cover the edge or a pie crust ring.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.




The Tale of Two Creeper Quilts

DSCN1723 Creeper is a character in the on line game called Minecraft.  It is a very popular game for little kids.  I made 2 twin size quilts to sell last summer at the Metro Con in Tampa.  My older grandkids had a craft booth there.  They didn’t sell so they are now up on Etsy.  My youngest grandson wanted to be in the picture so I left him pose.  It does give a perspective of the size of the quilts.  Here are some more pictures of the quilts. DSCN1346DSCN1719DSCN1729DSCN1730 The quilts are just as nice on the back side and can also be used as just a green quilt.  I used poly batting because it is light and cuddly for a child.  It also is easy to wash which is important with children.  It was machine quilted in the ditch with a wavy stitch to reinforce the seams for long wear.  The fabric is high quality cotton from my stash.  There might be some poly cotton blends that may of slipped into my stash from others giving me fabric out of their stash.  I have fabric that I don’t remember buying.  The quilt came together from what I had in my stash that matched the pixels in the game.

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