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Dorothy Dean

Homemakers service offered tips, leaflets, even a hotline

Wed., Oct. 20, 2010, midnight

Homemaker extraordinaire Dorothy Dean was never one to rest on her laurels.

The women who worked for the Dorothy Dean homemakers service not only published the leaflets that many still use, they also maintained a hotline for homemakers who needed help with recipes or other kitchen problems. The women in the department also produced a long-lived “Ask Dorothy Dean” column in the newspaper, hosted demonstrations, tested and updated recipes and held an annual recipe contest.

Born in the mid-1930s when housewifery was serious business for brides, the newspaper promised in a front page story that Miss Estelle Calkins, the first head of the Dorothy Dean service would, “teach Spokane housewives how to ‘housewife’ in the latest scientific manner.”

“Husbands should smile. Life should be pleasanter because of Miss Calkins – if wives will listen to Miss Calkins and do all the things she tells them to do.”

The recipes produced by the department span 45 years and were tested in the Dorothy Dean test kitchen. The recipes were updated year after year and new recipes added. The leaflets were always reflective of the popular dishes and trends of the day and the current science on food safety was always included.

A word of warning here: Many of the cooks who called or wrote about Dorothy Dean recipes said they’re still using canning recipes. Scientific testing in the late 1980s and early 1990s showed that many of the previous processing times were inadequate to kill the clostridium botulinum bacteria common in Washington.

Since the homemakers service ended in 1983, recipes on those leaflets were not updated to reflect longer processing times now recommended. Using those old recipes could be putting you and your family at risk for botulism, a serious and sometimes fatal neurotoxin.

It’s time to find an updated resource for those canning times. This advice is especially important for anyone using the processing times for vegetables. Try the “Ball Blue Book” series by the Ball Corp., or “So Easy to Preserve” from the University of Georgia Extension,

Don’t forget to look online for sample leaflets from over the years, along with timeless recipes and other recipes that have not aged so gracefully (Barbecue Aspic, anyone?). Find them at dorothydean.

Hamburger Stuffed Zucchini

Dorothy Olsen, of Mead, shared this recipe, one of her favorites from the E-2 “Hamburger Harvest” leaflet. She uses spaghetti squash instead.

6 (8-inch) or 1 large zucchini squash

1 pound ground beef

1 cup minced onions

1 egg, slightly beaten

½ cup cracker crumbs

Salt, pepper and garlic salt

½ cup Parmesan cheese

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out insides, leaving shell. Brown ground beef and onion; add squash pulp. Cover and cook until squash is soft. Season with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Remove from heat; stir in egg, cracker crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce to moisten. Season squash shells with salt and pepper; stuff with filling. Place in shallow baking pan. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce on squash halves; pour remaining sauce around them. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (45 minutes for large zucchini). Remove cover and top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake about 15 minutes longer until squash is tender and top is toasted.

Yield: 6 servings

Potatoes Romanoff

We also asked Dorothy Dean lovers to share their favorites five years ago. This recipe was among the most often mentioned both then and now. Pam Braun of Spokane has a yellowed clipping from the paper that includes this dish and others, “As a young wife and mother in the 1970s, Dorothy Dean was a staple in my kitchen,” she wrote.

6 large potatoes

2 cups dairy sour cream (1 pint)

1 bunch green onions, cut up

1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper


Cook potatoes in jackets until fork-tender. Peel, then shred into large bowl. Stir in sour cream, onions, 1 cup cheese, salt and pepper. Turn into greased 2-quart casserole. Top with remaining cheese; sprinkle with paprika. Cover; refrigerate several hours to overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until heated through.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Do-ahead Sausage Fondue

This casserole was mentioned by a couple of Dorothy Dean fans, including Linda Peck, who worked as an assistant in the Dorothy Dean department. The recipe appeared on a few different leaflets including W-27, 1978.

8 slices bread, cubed

2 cups shredded sharp American cheese

1 ½ pounds link sausage, cut into thirds

4 eggs

2 ¾ cups milk, divided

¾ teaspoon dry mustard

1 (10 ½ ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

Place bread in the bottom of a buttered 8-by-12-inch baking dish; top with cheese. Brown sausage; drain, then place on cheese. Beat eggs with 2 ¼ cups milk and mustard; pour over. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, dilute mushroom soup with 1/2 cup milk; pour over. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 ½ hours or until set.

Yield: 8 servings

Swedish Meatballs

From “Swedish Smorgasbord,” 1973, Dorothy Dean Homemakers Service. Karen Richards, of Spokane, says, “My collection is heavily marked with bookmarks for recipes that are good, old reliables.”

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs

3/4 cup half and half

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup minced onion

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons shortening or vegetable oil

1/4 cup water or broth

Grind beef and pork together twice. Soak bread crumbs in half-and-half. Fry onion in butter until golden. Combine meat, crumb mixture, cooked onion with egg and seasonings. Mix well then chill. Form into 1-inch balls. (Mixture will be soft; for ease in shaping, wet hands frequently.) In hot shortening or oil, fry meatballs, a few at a time until brown. Shake pan often to keep balls round. Place in casserole; add water then cover. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Yield: About 5 dozen

Patio Lickin’ Chicken

“I was married 66 years ago and one of the best wedding gifts I received was a Dorothy Dean cookbook. It saw me through many a crisis and when I really got stumped, I could call the paper and get a real live person to answer my question,” wrote Jean Adams, of Spokane. She said Patio Lickin’ Chicken is a family favorite that was a staple at the lake. From “Company Casseroles,” C-5.

2 envelopes dry onion soup mix

1 1/2 cups uncooked regular long-grain rice

2 chicken fryers, cut up

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 soup cans water

1/2 cup drained button mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped pimento

1/2 teaspoon Ac’cent (may be omitted)

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Spread dry onion soup mix evenly in bottom of 4-quart baking dish; cover with raw rice. Arrange chicken pieces over rice. Combine soup and water; pour over chicken. Scatter mushrooms and pimento over top. Season with Ac’cent and pepper. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Remove cover and continue baking about 1/2 hour longer until chicken is tender and brown.

Yield: 8 servings

My Own Thing Cake

From “Rhubarb Time,” N-25.

5 cups prepared rhubarb

1 cup sugar

1 (3-ounce) package raspberry gelatin

3 cups miniature marshmallows

1 package white cake mix

2 eggs


Cut rhubarb into 1/2-inch slices; arrange in greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle with sugar and gelatin; top with marshmallows. Prepare cake mix as directed on package with eggs and water as indicated. Spread batter evenly over marshmallows. Bake at 350 degrees, 50-55 minutes until cake tests done. Cool 5 minutes then turn out of pan, upside down, on serving tray. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Variations: Use fresh or frozen huckleberries and raspberry gelatin or peach slices and orange gelatin.

Yield: 12 to 15 servings

Nanaimo Bars

From “Bars, Squares and Slices,” C-23, 1961. This recipe was among the favorites mentioned by readers including the son-in-law of the last head of the Dorothy Dean department, Margaret Heimbigner.

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped nuts


1/2 cup butter

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder

2 cups powdered sugar

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate

1 tablespoon butter

Measure 1/2 cup butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and egg into top of a double boiler. Place over hot water; cook, stirring, until mixture is of custard consistency. Remove from heat and stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts; blend well. Pack mixture into buttered 9-inch square pan.

Icing: Cream butter; blend milk and pudding powder and stir in. Add powdered sugar; mix until smooth and creamy. Spread over cookie base; refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Melt chocolate with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread over vanilla layer; chill until set. Cut into bite-sized squares.

Yield: About 5 dozen candy cookies.

No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk or evaporated milk

3 tablespoons cocoa, option

¼ pound butter or margarine

3 cups quick cooking rolled oats, uncooked

½ cup chopped nuts, or peanut butter, or 1 cup miniature marshmallows

2 teaspoons vanilla

Dash of salt

Measure sugar, milk, cocoa and butter into saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper; refrigerate until set.

Yield: About 5 dozen

Danish Puffs

This recipe was mentioned as a favorite of many, including three former Dorothy Dean department heads. The recipe was included on more than one leaflet, including “Hot Bread Hits,” G-16.

1 cup butter, divided

2 cups sifted four, divided

2 tablespoons cold water

1 cup water

1 ¼ teaspoons almond extract

3 eggs

Powdered Sugar Glaze

Cut ½ cup butter into 1 cup flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cold water; work dough until blended. Shape into ball; divide in half. Pat each half into 3-by-12-inch oblong on baking sheet. Measure 1 cup water and remaining ½ cup butter into saucepan; bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat; add almond extract. Quickly stir in remaining 1 cup flour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each. Spread thick mixture over oblongs. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes until puffed and golden. Frost while hot with Powdered Sugar Glaze. Cut in slices and serve warm.

Powdered Sugar Glaze: In small bowl blend 1 cup powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla, dash salt, and 1 to 2 tablespoons milk.

Yield: 12 to 16 servings.

Apple Crisp

Marilyn Richards, of Spokane, sent in a color copy of what is perhaps the most tattered and stained Dorothy Dean newspaper clipping still in use. She was planning to pick apples from the backyard and make it the day she mailed it. “It has been passed down through our family over the years, and if lost, the phone rings (sometimes long distance) for instructions on how to make it,” she wrote. The recipe was published in 1949.

4 cups sliced cooking apples

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/3 cup sifted enriched flour

1 cup rolled oats (quick or uncooked)

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Place apples in greased shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and melted butter or margarine. Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture on top of apples and bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees) 30 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm or cold with milk or cream.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Zucchini-nut Cookies

From “Cookie Winners,” T-26, a favorite of Spokane’s Priscilla Reems. “I’ve made it every year when zucchini is plentiful since it was published,” she wrote.

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup grated unpeeled raw zucchini

2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Cream shortening and sugars. Beat in egg. Add zucchini. Sift dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Yield: About 3 dozen soft cookies


From “Lunchbox Cookies,” A-3. “The first time I made these (probably in 1968) I misread the amount of flour but we all like them so well that I have been making them for 40 years minus 1/2 cup of flour,” wrote Diana Tesdal, of Spokane Valley.

1 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon soda

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cream shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Sift flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Chill several hours. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in combined 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tom’s Rum Pie

Joan Garrison was an assistant in the Dorothy Dean department from 1968 until 1973. She helped test recipes in the Dorothy Dean kitchen and a few of her recipes were added to the books over the years, including Tom’s Rum Pie, her mother-in-law’s recipe that was named for her late husband. From leaflet N-4. She now lives in Cheyenne, Wyo.

1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin (1 1/2 envelopes)

1/2 cup cold water

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup rum

1 pint heavy cream

Baked 9-inch pie shell

Whipped cream

Chocolate curls

Soften gelatin in cold water; dissolve over hot water.

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Stir in rum. Whip cream; fold into egg mixture along with gelatin. Chill until mixture mounds from spoon. Spoon into pie shell. Refrigerate several hours until set. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls.

Yield: 8 rich servings

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