wonderful christmas scent

A Wonderful Christmas Scent Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

Ahhhh… the holiday smells!

There’s no doubt that my Mom “Betty” loved cloves.

She cooked with cloves and even decorated with them. At the holidays Mom would make orange-clove pomander balls and you guessed it – clove gum was a special treat beyond the usual mint flavored gums.

There’s no better time of year to enjoy the aroma of all that is spice and nice than at holidaytime.

This Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe comes to us from my Cousin Julie’s kitchen. Julie has contributed several recipes to this blog and her cooking advice has helped bridge the gaps in my much younger memory since the loss of my Mom back in the 1980s. Losing Cousin Julie in October (mere weeks ago) has left a huge void in my heart that’s only filled with the love and bountiful memories she gifted those who knew her.

This holiday season I dedicate all of it to Julie’s loving memory! And as you’d expect making this Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe could be no finer way to fill my home with a memorable great scent of the holidays.

I hope you enjoy this recipe – it’s so easy to make and enjoy! And you can gift the ingredients to friends and family as an easy way for them to brighten and heighten their holiday season!

Pomander Ball With Red And Green Ribbon

An example of the holiday pomanders my Mom “Betty” would make at the holidays.

i. ingredients

3 sticks | cinnamon
¼ cup | whole cloves
| bay leaves
½ | orange, halved
½ | lemon, halved
1 quart (4 cups) | water

ii. what to do

It doesn’t get any easier than this, folks!

1. Put everything in a medium-sized pot over low heat.

2. Bring things to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Check the water level periodically to ensure it hasn’t all evaporated. You can tilt a pot lid on top to help release the fragrant mist while helping retain the water.

Enjoy and Happiest Holidays from Betty’s Cook Nook!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Wonderful Christmas Scent Recipe

Julie’s original Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe was recently given to me by her son, Lorin. I’d peg this to be circa 1980s-ish given the colorful ribbon design.

In the tradition of many of my posts here at Betty’s Cook Nook let’s take a stroll into the past and enjoy some vintage images of gum advertising! I focus on clove gum, since it was one of Mom’s favorites and clove is a key ingredient in this Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe.

Click the circles to view the entire ad:

julie and patrick in starburst frame

Circa 1995: This one’s for us, Cousin!

minestrone soup

Minestrone Soup RecipeMy Mainstay, Minestrone

This is the third minestrone recipe I’ve discovered in my Mom “Betty’s” cookbook so there’s no doubt this was one of her favorites. This soup’s signature ingredients of beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock, and tomatoes will not disappoint. Plus, there’s pasta and cheese!

I’m glad to be reminded that this dish hails from Italy. And not just Italy but ancient Italy (think BC, folks!).

I’ve kidded a few times here at Betty’s Cook Nook that my family must have had poor roots as many of the recipes we ate growing up are considered peasant foods. This is one of them; minestrone belongs to a style of cooking known in Italy as “cucina povera” (literally “poor kitchen”). All I have to say is bring it on — I love my peasant foods as they are hearty and the very origins of comfort foods rely upon them! True story: I once made and devoured an instant mashed potato on sliced white bread sandwich proving my forever love for carby sustenance.

HEB Organics Elbows Macaroni

Macaroni For Me … Macaroni For You!

As a lover and former resident of Italy, one thing I’ve learned is that Italians do not rush in the kitchen. They really don’t rush outside the kitchen, either, unless it’s from behind the wheel of a fast sports car or when horse racing at revered events like Siena’s Palio.

In similar fashion, please don’t hurry this recipe — let the ingredients mingle and get to know one another. While cooking time takes about an hour and a half it’s well worth the wait. You’ll be treated to wonderful smells from your lively kitchen and rewarded with a savory soup that has withstood the test — and taste — of time.

Eating In Cortona Italy

foodie tips

  Back in the day “oil” likely meant Crisco vegetable oil. Since this dish has Italian roots we used olive oil — a kitchen staple. As fan of a great olive oil, for several years I’ve fostered an Italian olive tree living on a farm gracing the hills outside Montalcino, Tuscany. Each year after the Il Palazzone harvest my eyes grow as wide as dinner plates when 3 bottles of pure gold arrive at my door. That’s amore!

  Make sure and check out Mom’s other two minestrone recipes here and here. I’m not sure which version I like best as each has its own merit. In a pinch you could make the one that makes best use of the ingredients you have in your kitchen.

  Wacky about minestrone? Wiki’s got you covered with more interesting facts about this zesty soup!

Minestone Ingredients

i. ingredients

½ cup | olive oil
1 clove | garlic, minced
2 cups | onion, chopped
1 cup | celery, chopped
4 tablespoons | parsley, chopped
6 ounce can | tomato paste
10 ½ ounce can (~1 ½ cups) | beef or vegetable broth
9 cups | water
1 cup | cabbage, coarsely chopped
| carrots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons | salt
¼ teaspoon | freshly cracked pepper
⅛ teaspoon | sage
1 pound can | kidney beans
1 cup | green beans or peas (we used beans)
1 cup | elbow macaroni
to taste | grated parmesan cheese

ii. what to do

1. In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat.

2. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and parsley and cook until soft, about 7-9 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomato paste and the next 7 ingredients (the broth, water, cabbage, carrots, salt, pepper and sage). Mix well and bring to a boil.

4. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer slowly 1 hour.

5. Add the kidney and green beans (or peas) and the macaroni. Cook 10-15 minutes more or until the macaroni is tender.

6. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. That’s right — grated cheese makes the world go ’round!

Yields 8 servings. Keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats nicely!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Minestrone Recipe Card

Here’s A Scan Of Mom’s Actual Recipe Card

How To Make Minestrone Soup



sweet and sour cabbage

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Recipe

Your tastebuds will dance a sweet and savory tango induced by the dynamic pairing of brown sugar and bacon – both wrapped in a blankety “zing” of vinegar and a sprinkling of caraway seed.

Indeed, cabbage has a bad rap. Why, the lips seem to curl at the very mention of its name! And while cabbage made a lot of appearances at depression era tables, there are some quite redeeming qualities of cabbage including protecting against stress, lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and helping create a healthier complexion. I’m in!

the cabbage craze

Perhaps the biggest cabbage morale booster started in the 1970s. This was the golden era where the origins of the Cabbage Patch Kids kingdom was born. During this time I was preoccupied with skateboarding or patiently staring at the fruitless gems never born by my rock tumbler. Simultaneously a multi-billion dollar business was emerging thanks to the help of “Bunnybees” sprinkling magic dust on top of cabbages. Hey, don’t make fun of the messenger!

While your sweet and sour cabbage is chilling in the fridge you can enjoy the earliest Cabbage Patch Kids video I could locate (below) plus a video revealing the lesser-known story behind the pudgy dolls.

foodie tips

  Dressing tip: We didn’t notice the dressing turning clear per the instructions below; just make sure you don’t overcook it; in 3-4 minutes ours was done.

  This dish is best consumed the same day it’s made; the chopped cabbage will gradually lose its crisp the longer it sits.

  Love sweet and sour? Celebrate the flavorful ying and yang by clicking here for more of Mom’s recipes!

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Close Up

A Cool, Star-Like Design, Compliments Of Cabbage

i. ingredients

6 slices | bacon
3 tablespoons | bacon drippings, reserved from bacon (above)
2 tablespoons | white onion, chopped
½ cup | brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon | corn starch
1 teaspoon | salt
¼ cup | water
⅓ cup | vinegar
6 cups | red cabbage, shredded
1 teaspoon | caraway seeds

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Caraway Seeds

A Caraway Seed Close Up

ii. what to do

1. Cook the bacon until crisp. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the skillet then drain the excess. Cool then crumble the bacon and set it aside while we prepare our dressing.

2. To the drippings add the onion, brown sugar, corn starch, salt, water, and the vinegar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and clear. Remove the dressing from heat and cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, caraway seeds. Add the crumbled bacon and the cooled dressing. Toss well and chill.

Yields 6 1-cup servings! I paired my cabbage with a nice home-grilled cheeseburger, which complimented the sweet and savory cabbage perfectly!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

A Sweet and Sour Cabbage Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Recipe

A Scan Of Mom’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage Recipe (note the back – Woman’s Day Magazine!)

And here are the videos I promised!

parmesan dressing

Parmesan Dressing RecipeA Tale of Two Dishes

When I first picked this recipe from Mom’s cookbook, I thought I’d be making a creamy salad dressing chock-full of grated parmesan.

I was so very wrong!

A few minutes into the prep for this recipe and I knew to set my salad aside.

I was making dressing. Or was it stuffing?

Turns out I wasn’t sure the differences of either.

I grew up loving me some Stove Top Stuffing. Not that my Mom “Betty” regularly made it – I did. My love for stuffing started and swelled during my college years and since I’ve polished off more than a few boxes of the stuff like it was a main course … and a dessert.

A Foodie War Rages On

After a little bit of online research I was left even more conflicted about the differences between dressing and stuffing.

Some posts I found noted that the only difference was whether you prepared and served the dish from inside a bird (hence stuffing) vs. from the side of the bird (or dressing).

Another post said it was due to differences in dialect as in the south dressing was a more “genteel” way of referring to stuffing. Reading this made me feel like I time-warped back into a scene from Gone With The Wind.

Others posts pointed to stuffing being super moist and dressing more like a special combination of sticky-pillowy soft with a hint of crisp – this is the style I am used to.

Stuffing vs. Dressing - What's the Difference?All I know is based on this Butterball survey, the various regions of the country do have differences in preference. No wonder my confusion! As a Texan, I live in a region where the popularity of “stuffing” vs. “dressing” is an arm-wrestle more evenly matched than anywhere else in the nation! Heck, even in this Paul Deen video, the Southern Queen of Comfort Food herself uses the terms interchangeably… yet her end result looks more like porridge than what I’m used to. Heck, y’all, if Rachael Ray was weighing-in here, she’d probably call this dish “druffing,” as she’s known for inventing words that are a made-up mish-mash of food itself!

So, what does your family call it?

I simply call it “get in my belly!” And just like the war over chili with or without beans, I’ll leave it to you to make and enjoy the very best of your favorite recipes!

foodie tips

  A word about parsley … While I’m fairly certain that in the good ol’ days any reference to parsley implied the curly-leaf kind, today I’m a lover of Italian flat-leaf parsley because I find it less “grassy” and “scratchy” on my palate. The good news is you can pick whichever variety you like!

  Step 3 below is optional, but I tried the dressing before and after and preferred the dressing with a slight toasting.

i. ingredients

1 large | white onion, chopped
4 tablespoons | vegetable oil
3 cups | soft bread crumbs
½ cup | parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup | fresh parsley, chopped (Italian flat leaf suggested)
2 tablespoons | hot water
Parmesan Dressing Recipe from Betty's Cook Nook

ii. what to do

1. In a medium pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onions.

2. Add the onions to all the other ingredients and mix well.

3. This step is extra (from me)… I transferred my dressing into a 350°F preheated oven for about 5-7 minutes to toast it up a bit. I added a bit more freshly grated parmesan on top to give it a little punch.


~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Parmesan Dressing Recipe

Parmesan Dressing Recipe

A Scan Of Mom’s Original Parmesan Dressing Recipe Card

A few more vintage Stove Top commercials from me to you!

NPR Kitchen Set~ ~ ~

Stove Top Stuffing: Creepy, Remarkable, or Somewhere in Between?!

Listen to this NPR spot about the origin of Stove Top Stuffing and its creator, Ruth Siems.

After listening to this I gained a greater appreciation for the culinary convenience of Stove Top Stuffing as well as the time-tested art of conventional stuffing!

~ ~ ~


A Minestrone Soup Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

Souper Trouper

This isn’t our first time at the minestrone rodeo! In 2012 we made this minestrone recipe and Mom must have surely loved this soup because I think I’ve found 3 different minestrone soup recipes in her cookbook.

While the formal definition of minestrone calls for a thick soup with bits of pasta, this recipe – sans the pasta – is just as tasty as our first find, which included dittalini. With Italian origins, this tasty soup warms you up on a cold day! It’s good all by itself or partnered with some fresh baked bread and a salad. For those who don’t know me, a side of wine is a given. :)

foodie tips

  I used red cabbage for a pop a’ color.

  I was concerned at first sight by the mass quantity of soup. But when I later did the math I realized it’s perfect for a party of eight. Or 4 days of 2 bowls each.  :/~  You can also bag and freeze leftovers for a quick meal when you’re short on time.

  “Navy beans” are referred to by many a name. Haricot. Pearl Haricot. Pea Bean. This high fiber bean isn’t navy blue in color – rather white – and prized for its cholesterol-lowering health benefits plus its ability to retain an oval shape after being cooked tender. Navy beans received their nickname after being a popular staple of the U.S. Navy in the early 20th century.
Why Are They Called Navy Beans?

i. ingredients

2 cups | navy beans
4 quarts | cold water
| beef bouillon cubes (or beef broth)
2 tablespoons | vegetable oil
1 ½ cups | onion, chopped
2 cups | celery, sliced
2 cloves | garlic, minced
3 tablespoons | parsley, chopped
1 pound can | tomatoes, chopped (including juice)
1 teaspoon | basil, crumbled (or a few fresh leaves, torn by hand)
½ teaspoon | oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons | salt (we prefer kosher salt or grey sea salt)
¼ teaspoon | pepper, freshly cracked
1 cup (3 medium) | carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups (4 small) | unpeeled zucchini, sliced
10 ounce package | frozen green peas
10 ounce package | frozen cut green beans
¼ head (2 cups) | cabbage, sliced
to serve | parmesan cheese, grated

Use Red Cabbage For Minestrone Soup... For A Pop Of Color!ii. what to do

1. Wash the navy beans. Place beans, water and bouillon (or broth) in a large pot. Bring slowly to boil and simmer, covered 1 ½ hours, or until the beans are soft. While the beans soften now’s a good time for a little wine rest break! #LongDay

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add this mixture to the beans and broth.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cheese. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

4. To serve, sprinkle each serving with the grated parmesan cheese and ENJOY!

Yields: About 8-9 servings (~2 cups each, in size). Nutritional info is below in the original recipe scan!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook


How To Make Minestrone Soup

A Minestrone Soup Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

A Scan Of Betty’s Original Minestrone Soup Recipe

cheese straws

A Cheese Straws Recipe From Betty's Cook NookCheese? Yes, Please!

Candy cigarettes aside, the first straw-like food object I can remember from my childhood are Pixy Stix.

The brightly colored straws have origins to the 1940s and were filled with a sweet n’ sour powdery candy that jettisoned my energy levels into outer orbit! #OffDaCharts! If I cough-choked while inhaling the sugary straws, I knew I was having a good time.

A Vintage Pixy Stix Print AdFlash forward quite a few years: These cheese straws are a savory treat that were surprisingly delicious to me – they have a nice buttery-cheesy taste and a few seconds later I enjoyed the warm – not spicy – flavor dismount, compliments of the cayenne pepper.

Younger foodies will enjoy helping you make these straws – they’re perfect for your game day lineup or any day you’d like an extra-special pick-me-up beyond the usual potato or tortilla chips.

foodie tips

  Per the recipe card below… “Cookie press?” “Star plate?” Yeah, this is why this recipe wasn’t one of the early chosen ones I’ve made here at Betty’s Cook Nook – I had no clue what these items were! After some online research I realized a cookie press is a quite popular semi-automatic weapon for cooks! I ran to my nearest store and scored this new kitchen gadget which is a foodie essential for making these cheese straws.

Driving home I remembered that Mom had a cookie press, too! It was an all-metal version and it had lots of extra parts that were kept by its side. Funny how certain things can conjure up *almost* forgotten memories!

  These straws are delicate so handle with TLC. No worries – even if they break they still taste the same: AWESOME!

i. ingredients

1 teaspoon | red pepper (a.k.a. cayenne pepper)
1 cup | sifted flour
½ teaspoon | baking powder
1 cup | cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup | butter (go big with unsalted Falfurrias Brand)
3 tablespoons | cold water
special kitchen utensil | a cookie press (see tip above)

ii. what to do

0. Preheat oven to 375°F.

1. Sift together the red pepper, flour, and baking powder.

2. Cut in the cheese, butter and then add the water. Mix well.

3. Insert the cheesy dough into your cookie press and squeeze it into your desired length, then cut to free it from your foodie gun. Note: If you find that the dough is too thick to easily come out of the press you can remove it, add a little bit more water and reload.

4. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Yield: About 2 dozen straws

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook


A Cheese Straws Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

A Cheese Straws Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook


Here’s A Scan Of Mom’s Original Cheese Straws Recipe.
I’m not certain who penned this recipe, but the handwriting looks like that of Betty’s Sister, “Delores.” :)

minute rice salad

Minute Rice Salad Recipe From Betty's Cook NookHam + Cheese? Yes, Please!

I love reading about the history of food.

Researching and making my Mom’s recipes has become a hobby of mine and I’m often amazed at the evolution of food through the years – especially during my lifetime; I find that food is in many ways like fashion.

Flashback Foods

I enjoy taking trips down the international food aisle at the grocery store. It’s here I can be surprised and delighted with foods I’ve never heard of… not to mention the interesting and artful packaging.

My international food journeys remind me of the things I often mistakenly take for granted. Things like:

  • Some foods are no longer available. I discovered this the hard way with one of my early BCN posts when searching for madrilène so I could make this tasty avocado soup. Also extremely hard to find? A garlic cheese roll. If you were a chocolate and caramel lover eating between 1973 and 1981, you likely remember the Marathon Bar which was sweet and savory braided deliciousness that was a treat about as big as a Texas sunrise.
  • Packaging sizes have changed. I often find that cans and packaged foods are trending larger than they did in the good ole’ days. Supersize Me! And give me seconds. And please don’t forget the cheese.
  • Food packaging has changed. Wine in a box? Get real. (Pssst – it is real)! Refried beans in a bag? Just heat ’em and eat ’em! Tomato paste in a tube? Totally tubular! Let’s get rolling!

A Cheesy Love Affair

I got super sucker-punched in the belly when I lived in Italy. I thought I knew most everything about the country – Heck, it was my seventh trip there. But living far and away for more than a couple of weeks taught me a lot about the presence and absence of food.

Most notably I learned that authentic Italy does not sell or consume yellow cheese. Wait, what?!? Yeah, no yellow cheese! You can imagine the sadness and horror that became my new face as repeated trips to every store in the region produced no yellow cheese. This Texas boy quickly developed a serious health issue when I realized there would be no yellow cheese for me. No homemade mac and cheese. No cheese n’ potatoes. No queso. NO QUESO?!?

This is the solid truth – had someone told me there was a store in a province within a one or two day walk from Tuscany, I would have walked there and back just to score a single log of Velveeta. Pinky swear it. Joe will back me up on this.

I begged our great friends Jeanie and David who were flying over from Texas for an Italian New Years to please, please, please bring me a block of Velveeta. And if they could also find it in their Texas-sized hearts to tuck some taco seasoning in their bag, I would be eternally grateful. And I am.

Velveeta, taco seasoning, picante sauce and Rotel ... In Tuscany!

Eating like a Texan when in Italy begins with the proper ingredients.

My dream came true for NYE 2012 when three beautiful blocks of Velveeta arrived along with several packets of taco seasoning, some Pace picante sauce, Rotel and even a bottle of Don Julio tequila. It was a Holiday to Remember! ← Read this post of mine to learn more about shopping Italian style.

Get On With It

OK, OK! So what does all this have to do with this recipe? Everything.

The optional yellow cheese? Yeah, forget about it. It’s not that you’re in Italy … it’s because this dish doesn’t need it.

Most notably this is a typical recipe circa 1970s that is less about sizzle and more about sustenance. No fancy presentation draped with a demi-glaze sauce. It’s good ole’ timey tasty. For me the combination of swiss cheese, ham and pickle was a delicious trio that packed a lotta taste. The mayo, onion and peas only sealed the deal.

You’ll see.

foodie tips ~

❤  While perfect as a side salad my appetite was trying to find other ways to enjoy this aside from “just a salad.” I wound-up making lettuce cups out of mine and enjoyed every delicious bite. I think a toasted sandwich filled with the stuff would make the world a brighter place, too.

❤  American Cheese is optional for this dish; I did not use it but I love me some yellow cheese, as the story above reveals.

  Dill pickle lover? Check out my other post for Sauerkraut Bend’s Potato Salad… plus a video revealing the history behind the little pickle that made Texas famous.

Minute Rice Salad Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

i. ingredients

1 box | Bird’s Eye frozen green peas
½ teaspoon | salt
1 ½ cups | water
1 ⅓ cups | Minute Rice
¾ cup | mayonnaise
½ cup | chopped dill pickle
1 teaspoon | onion, grated
1 cup | slivered cooked ham
1 cup | slivered swiss cheese
1 cup | slivered american cheese (optional)
to serve | tomato wedges (optional)

ii. what to do

1. Add the peas, salt and water to a saucepan. Cover and bring to a full boil.

2. Add the Minute Rice and mix to moisten all the rice. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for 13 minutes.

3. Add the mayonnaise, pickles and onion and mix/fluff with a fork. Chill in the fridge.

4. When ready to serve add the ham and cheese. Serve on lettuce with tomato wedges and enjoy!

Yields 6 servings

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Minute Rice Salad Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

A Scan Of Mom’s Original Minute Rice Salad Recipe

Minute Rice Salad Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook