Stay Connected

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Dinner at 50's O'Clock: Cooking 50's Recipes

I decided to make a complete dinner from my mother's cookbook, the one with a copyright date of 1953. This is exactly the kind of meal my mother made in the earlier years of my parents' marriage (the 1950s to early-mid 60s years). In fact, I remember my mother making 3 of these recipes. 

I began cooking in the late morning hours, just as my mother would have done. This way, my afternoon would be completely free until time to put the finishing touches on everything and serve. 

I began by starting the main dish, poaching a b/s chicken breast in some homemade stock, measuring the rice, and chopping the vegetables. While the chicken cooked, I made the pickled beets. Once those were in the fridge marinating, I assembled the cabbage and carrot dish and put it all into the stainless saucepan in which the dish would cook. Next I made the dessert. While that was baking, I assembled the chicken and rice casserole. Whew! By the time the Brown Betty was out of the oven, the casserole was covered and in the fridge, waiting to be baked in the late afternoon. Also, about half of the dishes were washed. I finished the cleanup in time for a late lunch. And now I have some time to write to you, friends, before I do my workout, fold laundry, and finish getting dinner together.

I took shortcuts where I could, such as canned beets instead of fresh, using the smoothie blender to make the bread crumbs for the dessert, and using frozen apple chunks and celery dices that I'd made last summer from garden produce. 

The menu I chose follows the guidelines provided in the cookbook for putting together a full, budget-oriented dinner, containing a main dish with both a starch and protein, a hot vegetable dish, a cold salad, and a dessert. I chose the recipes that I did because I had almost all of the ingredients on hand, and the combination of the dishes provided a good balance of savory, tangy, sweet, and spicy, and seemed to have a nice amount of color.

Here's the menu:

Club Chicken Casserole
Cabbage Plate
Pickled Beets
Apple Brown Betty

Here are the actual recipes and how I adapted them:

I cut this recipe in half, as I'm only serving 4 adults, and I have enough cooked rice for a half-recipe. I left out the pimento and mushrooms and substituted soy milk plus some soy milk powder for the evaporated milk. My mother always kept a jar of pimentos and a jar or two of mushrooms in the pantry, so she would have included both of those. But she would not have had evaporated milk on hand. She would have simply used regular milk in its place. Since I had 1/4 of a whole green pepper needing to be used up, and I didn't have the other vegetables, I went ahead and added all of the pepper, diced. It was a little over 1/3 cup of dices, which should be fine in this recipe. 

I've made this before, sometimes using red pepper in place of pimento. It does add a pretty look to the casserole. I will add the almonds after the casserole is baked. Below is what it looks like ready to go into the oven. Although the recipe does not call for baking it covered, I will have it covered with foil for the first 15 minutes, to keep it from drying out too much. Then I'll remove the foil.

Cabbage Plate is our hot vegetable for the meal. I've never made nor eaten this dish. I'm not sure what my family will think of it. But we did have all of the necessary ingredients. Sometimes, that fact trumps everything else. The only change I made was to use frozen chopped celery. The dish is in the saucepan, ready to set on the stove to cook while the casserole heats through.

Here's what Cabbage Plate looks like ready to cook.

I had a single can of sliced beets in the pantry, waiting to be used. I julienne-sliced the beets (just as my mother always did) and heated the dressing in the microwave in the same measuring cup that I measured the julienned beets. I had a total of about 1 1/2 cups of the beets, so I made a half-recipe of the dressing. Pickled beets are our cold salad for the dinner. It's now chilling in the fridge. To ensure they marinate equally, I'm stirring the beets every couple of hours.

Here's what the Pickled Beets look like ready to serve.

Of course, no 50s dinner would be complete without a homemade dessert. I chose what I thought was the quintessential 1950s baked dessert, Brown Betty. My mother made this often. I love that it uses bread crumbs, as stale bread seems to multiply in my kitchen. My mother would have used white bread. I have half white/half whole wheat bread. I ground up the crumbs in the smoothie blender, which worked so awesomely. Afterward, I rinsed it briefly and made my lunch smoothie in it. I do have some fresh apples on hand, but I wanted to use the frozen chunks for baked goods and save the fresh for eating as fresh apples. I didn't have the lemon peel, but did have bottled lemon juice.

Here's the finished dessert.

I'll update with photos of my plate and feedback from my family later.

This is the type of meal my father loved. When I was a new bride, the newlywed advice my father gave to me was to cook like my mother did. My father was thinking that my husband would love these sorts of meals as he had. And he was right. I try to cook full meals like this one a couple of times per week. My husband always appreciates that I go to this effort for him. 

Cooking an entire meal from a 1950s cookbook was a fun change of pace. I may do this again soon, as my mother's cookbook contains many wonderful meal ideas.


  1. What a nice thing for your father to say about your mom's cooking. I remember feeling like I had received the ultimate compliment from my father when he said that my meatloaf was good because it was like my mom's. I suspect she and I used the same Betty Crocker cookbook recipe. :)

    I love reading through old cookbooks. Yours is a fun idea, to make meals from different eras. Years ago, a friend of mine made a different international meal each month, and she and her husband would learn more about the culture and would pray for people from that area. I don't know if she continued the practice, but it was a unique way to make meals more interesting.

    1. Hi Kris,
      That was a very sweet thing for my father to say about my mother's cooking. My mother had passed away two years before my wedding. And my father was still remembering my mother's gift for homemaking.

      I have been "reading" cookbooks since I was a teen. I've always loved reading them, especially the older cookbooks that offer much more than just the recipes, but give menu planning advice for all sorts of occasions, as well as dietary guidelines and sometimes other household hints.

      I love your friend's idea to cook a different cuisine every month and then pray for the people in those countries. Such a wonderful idea!

  2. That sounds like a fun way to figure out what you're having for supper. It will be interesting to hear what your family thinks. Now I'm wondering if I have any old cookbooks from my mother. I think my niece took them all when we were cleaning out the house because she really liked old cookbooks. I don't remember my mother using recipes as much as methods when she was cooking.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Perhaps your niece could loan you one of your mother's cookbooks sometime. I wonder if you'd find any recipes that your mother did use?

      Then dinner was a success! We listened to 50's music in the background and talked about how different life is today than it was 70 years ago. It was all delicious, even the cabbage and carrot dish that I was a little hesitant about. One daughter asked me what seasoning I used in it and was surprised that the only seasonings were salt, sugar, and the vegetables themselves. I will add this cabbage, carrot, celery, onion dish to our ways to prepare cabbage.

  3. BTW, Lili. I don't know anything about the service you have your blog on, but since it is not secure, some computers will not let me link to it. I don't know if you were aware of this or that it matters to you, but I thought I would mention it.

    1. Thank you, Live and Learn. I think I may have fixed that now. But in doing so, I've lost the ability to comment with my Google account and have to manually enter in my name again. Oh well, can't win them all.

    2. While Google has many useful free products, I have found that they don't play well with others and have caused me problems from time to time when trying to share something (or comment) with others. But I am thankful for what they do provide.

    3. Hi again, Live and Learn,
      Yeah, on the whole, I'm grateful to be able to use their free products. Sometimes, they're a little frustrating, though.


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post