TASTY TRADITIONS: Electricity made these recipes possible


Heirloom recipes, handed down by generations of Central Texas families, keep history scrumptious

The inspiration for our recipe request came from research into Bluebonnet’s 75th anniversary. Once electricity reached the homes of rural Texans, it wasn’t long before shiny new electric appliances started replacing the hot, wood-burning ovens and not-quite-cold-enough ice boxes that many families had struggled with for years. With that change, a kitchen revolution began and a whole new generation of cooks and recipes emerged. 
Old electric cooperative cookbooks are the repositories of many of these cherished recipes. A lot of those cookbooks are out of print and can be difficult to find. The recipes toward the back of every issue of Texas Co-op Power magazine are still among the statewide publication’s most popular monthly features.
It’s not haute cuisine or vegan or gluten-free. These are down-home dishes where calories aren’t counted and diets are put on the back burner for a night. It’s comfort food, Central Texas rural electric co-op style.  Here is an assortment of unique, delicious recipes we received, each with an interesting story behind it. 
— Lisa Ogle
Chocolate Chip Cake 

(Glenda Gebert photo)Glenda Gebert of Elgin received this recipe more than 25 years ago from Erlene Tate, whom she worked with at the Social Security Administration’s district office in Temple. Glenda said she makes it often and has tried a few variations.  The one in the photo was made in her decorative cast iron pan. The recipe calls for a bundt pan, but she has also used a 9x13 pan and topped it with vanilla or cream cheese icing. Another variation is to use chocolate cake mix in place of yellow cake mix and even a second box of chocolate pudding in place of the vanilla pudding.
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, such as pecans
Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips and pecans. Beat with mixer on high until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Bake in Bundt pan or stem pan at 325 to 340 degrees for about 1 hour and 10 minutes.


Summer Squash Lasagna 

(Gerald Kubica photo)Vicky Kubica of Dime Box, below, created this recipe about 15 years ago as a way to sneak summer squash into her kids’ diet as well as use up the squash that she grew in her garden. She mostly makes it in the summer, when her squash is plentiful. She’s working on a recipe book to pass on to her family, and this recipe will be included, along with another family favorite, Spanish-style chicken casserole.

1/2 box Barilla lasagna noodles
Spray olive oil (4 sprays)
1 pound ground turkey (85% lean; can use other percentages)
2 tablespoons spicy spaghetti seasoning, dried 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small or 1 large yellow summer squash
1 pack of Neufchatel cheese 
1 small can of mushroom pieces 
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chili peppers (hot or mild)
1 small can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil water for noodles. Add spray olive oil to the water to keep them from sticking. Add noodles individually, broken in half so they will fit in the skillet. Cook for about 8 minutes.
Brown the ground turkey in a frying pan, with the dried spaghetti seasoning and oil. Make sure the spices have absorbed the oil. Shred the summer squash like coleslaw. Put it to the side. Take the Neufchatel cheese out of the foil package. Put it into a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 60 seconds to soften. 
In a larger bowl, mix the softened cheese, drained mushrooms, Rotel tomatoes and can of cream of mushroom soup thoroughly with a fork. Once the noodles are done, rinse them so they are cool enough to handle for layering in the skillet.
Important: First add a layer of soup mixture on the bottom of the skillet. Then add layer of noodles. Cover all the soup mixture you can. Then, add a layer of shredded squash and a layer of seasoned ground meat. Repeat until you use up all your ingredients and fill the skillet. Last, add the shredded cheddar cheese, mostly for looks. Bake for 20 minutes.

Chicken Delight 

(Sarah Beal photo)Carol Jurk of Warda, above, has been making Chicken Delight for more than 40 years. A dear friend, Dot Randall, served it one day when they were living in Stafford, and Carol asked for the recipe. She generally makes it whenever a whim hits her or when a close friend from the Fort Worth area comes to visit, since he requests it. Her entire family enjoys it. She usually serves it with a garden salad. 
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
3 cups cooked rice
3-pound (or larger) whole chicken
3 cups broth
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook chicken by boiling in water with salt, celery and other seasonings to your liking, until tender and cooked through. Then, debone and chop. (You can substitute canned chicken.)
Simmer butter, onion and bell pepper until light brown. Add cream of chicken soup. Add chopped chicken. Add broth, then rice, a little at a time. Mix together well, place in a 9X12 casserole dish, and bake in 325-degree oven for 30 minutes, until bubbly. Enjoy!


Gunnar’s Barbecue Sauce 

(Eriksson family photos)
John Eriksson of Houston said this barbecue sauce recipe was created around the 1920s, after his father, Gunnar, pictured here, and Uncle Alvar came to Texas from Sweden. Both men followed construction trades and worked as ironworkers and carpenters.
Eriksson’s dad met his mom in Galveston, and then they spent time with other Swedes around Manor and New Sweden. Family connections and the men’s chosen trades naturally nurtured food-centered gatherings. A lack of lutefisk or herring prompted them to quickly pick up the Texas tradition of barbecue.    
The recipe was passed down to John, then to his children and grandchildren. It can be modified to fit individual tastes and has been altered a number of times since it was first created. For example, the original recipe called for liquid smoke, but the family decided to change that to smoked ancho peppers. The beer came into play when they once left the sauce on the stove too long and needed to thin it. They have used Pearl, Southern Select and Falstaff, among other beers. 
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stick butter
2 cups catsup
2/3 cup vinegar
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
Smoked ancho peppers (to taste)
1 can beer (optional)
Saute onions and garlic in butter until translucent. Add balance of liquid ingredients, simmer for about 10 minutes. Add pepper, cover and simmer for an hour.
Optional steps: Eriksson said he prefers to take out the peppers, remove stems and seeds, chop and add them back into the sauce. He then uses an immersion blender to finely chop all the solids and make the sauce smooth. If heated too long and thickens, add beer and simmer further to achieve the desired consistency. If you want a slightly sweeter sauce, use apple cider vinegar in lieu of white vinegar.


(Lisa Laurent photo)Lisa Laurent of Rosanky has fond memories of her grandmother’s recipe for a dish called, simply,  Fiesta. Lisa’s grandparents were preachers in a church and lived just a few streets down, so her family ate dinner with them a lot.  This was always her favorite. Grandmother would make all the ingredients and put them out for everyone to make their plates. They called it Fiesta Night. Her family carries on the tradition. 
The Sauce: 
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
12-ounce can V8 vegetable juice
8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 can Campbell’s tomato soup
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
The Layers:
1 cup uncooked rice
1 bag Fritos, crushed
1 cup (or more if you like)Cheddar cheese, shredded 
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Cook rice according to package. Brown ground beef, add onion and cook until softened. Add cumin and chili powder. Add V8, tomato sauce and soup. Simmer 20-30 minutes until it looks and smells yummy. Finish off with a splash of Worcestershire, salt and pepper.
Now it is time to plate! First, put about 1/3 cup of cooked rice on the plate. (Be careful -- these layers make the dish grow fast.) Then add two ladles of sauce; a handful of Fritos, cheese and lettuce; and a sprinkling of tomato, olives, coconut and finally the pecans.

Cornbread Dressing 

(Alenda Lux photo)Llavona Hellums of Dale said these recipes have been handed down from mother to daughter for generations. They come from a time in life when measures came in “a pinch” or “a bunch,” instead of tablespoons or cups. Llavona’s “nana,” Florence Mayfield, passed down the Cornbread Dressing recipe in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Llavona and her daughter Joyce Rucker, also of Dale, prepare and serve it during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and it is a family tradition.
1 stalk celery
2 bunches green onions
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sage, to taste (optional)
2 9x13 pans of cornbread (if using mix, may require up to 6 boxes)
1/2 package herb seasoned stuffing
2 slices white bread, toasted
Roughly 4 cups chicken or turkey broth
1/2 package cornbread stuffing
Prepare two large pans of cornbread. Let cool. Add herb seasoned stuffing. Cut toasted bread into small bite-size pieces and add to cornbread. Chop celery and green onions and add, along with cornbread stuffing. Add salt, pepper and sage to taste. Pour broth into mixture till it reaches a good consistency. It should be pretty moist, not thick. Mix well, and bake at 350 degrees in roaster pan until brown, about 45 minutes.
Ma’s Giblet Gravy 

( photo)Llavona’s mother-in-law, Lillie Hellums, handed down the giblet gravy recipe. It is served with the dressing during the holidays.
1/2 pound chicken livers
1/2 pound chicken gizzards
1/2 stick oleo, margarine or butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons unbaked dressing
Chop livers and gizzards into very small chunks and boil in water until tender. Melt oleo, margarine or butter in small sauce pan, add flour and brown. Add milk and water. Mix well. Add livers and gizzards. Stir in unbaked dressing, and bring to a boil until it thickens and is brown around the sides.

Cheese Wafers 

( photo)In addition to the recipes Central Texas cooks found for years in Texas Co-op Power magazine, Texas Electric Cooperatives association occasionally printed cookbooks using recipes contributed by electric co-op members and employees from across the state. One of the most popular was the “Typically Texas Cookbook,” originally published in 1970. This Cheese Wafers recipe, submitted by Frances Whitsel of Dime Box, who was a Bluebonnet member, appeared in the second edition of the cookbook, printed in 1989.
2 sticks margarine, softened
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
Cream margarine and cheese. Combine flour, red pepper and salt. Add to cheese mixture, along with Rice Krispies; mix well. Shape into small balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each with fork. Bake 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees.

Lemon Angel Molded Cake 

(Family and Joe Stafford photo)This scrumptious dessert was created around 1945, after World War II, when sugar became more readily available. Marsha Roose of Cedar Creek says that the tradition of making this cake every Christmas began with her grandmother, Lerah Richardson, who passed it on to her daughter, Mary Lynn Clinger. After Marsha’s mother died in February 2013, the tradition was passed down to Marsha’s sister, Barbara Hinesley. It continues alongside another family tradition in which Marsha and Barbara’s brother, Brian Clinger, reads aloud the story of Christmas from the book of Luke in the Bible.
Three generations of cake cooks: Lerah Richardson, right, created the Lemon Angel Molded Cake recipe. She passed it to her daughter, Mary Lynn Clinger, center, who handed it down to her daughter, Barbara Hinesley, left.
6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 envelope Knox gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
6 egg whites
Another 3/4 cup sugar (for egg whites)
1 angel food cake (you can use an already made cake, make one from a box mix or make it from scratch –- any will do)
Whipped cream for topping
Dissolve gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. In a double-boiling pan, cook the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar with the gelatin mixture, whisking constantly, adding the lemon juice and cooking until the mix reaches a custard consistency or until mixture coats a spoon. Beat egg whites with 3/4 cup sugar until stiff but not dry. Pour hot custard over egg whites, folding together as you pour. Break up angel food cake in small pieces in a bowl, pour the custard over the angel food cake, then fold together. With no pan prep needed, put the mixture into a 10-inch tube pan (also known as an angel food cake pan) and chill in refrigerator overnight. To unmold, run blade of knife around sides of tube to loosen cake, place a large plate over the top of pan and invert. Serve cake in slices, topped with whipped cream.


« Return to News