Recipes and Memories From a Vintage Cookbook

Thelma Raker Coffone is a former field editor for Taste of Home magazine and editor of Homemaker Headlines recipe newsletter.

The cover of the "Golden Memories Cookbook," a book of Midwest country recipes.

The cover of the "Golden Memories Cookbook," a book of Midwest country recipes.

Golden Memories Cookbook by Billie Oakley

The joy of cooking dishes you find in vintage cookbooks is learning about the history and memories associated with the recipes. Cookbook author Billie Oakley doesn't leave you empty-handed when it comes to sharing delicious vintage recipes and entertaining tales of her growing-up years in the Midwest.

About Billie

Billie's ability to spin a good yarn (a country description of a good storyteller) and her reputation as one of the best cooks around led her to become one of the original radio homemakers. She shared recipes on the air for many years, starting in the 1950s. If you mention Billie's name in the state of Iowa, chances are cooks from her generation will know who you are talking about.

The stories in Golden Memories Cookbook will make you smile and maybe bring back pleasant childhood memories. Topics include outhouses, one-room schoolhouses, and her grandpa's blacksmith shop, to name a few.

Sharing Some of the Vintage Recipes

Billie and her radio homemaker sidekick, Evelyn Birkby, were inspirations to me for my writing and radio broadcasting endeavors. I treasure my autographed copy of Golden Memories Cookbook, and I am pleased to share with you a sampling of the recipes found on its pages.

  • Jello Cookies
  • Doughnut Muffins
  • Meaty Potato Cakes
  • Apple Toss Salad

Jello Cookies

During Billie's 40 years as a radio homemaker, Jello was an immensely popular dessert. This recipe makes use of it as the main ingredient for these cookies that were lunchbox favorites.


  • 3/4 cup butter or shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 small package Jello (your favorite flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix ingredients in the order given. Chill for a hour or so.
  3. Shape into small balls. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten with glass dipped into sugar.
  4. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Billie's Golden Memory of Jello Cookies

I remember when the girl down the road opened her lunchbox and showed me some delicate, colorful Jello cookies . . . they made my gingersnaps look dull by comparison!

— Billie Oakley

Doughnut Muffins

Note from Billie: "I prefer to use very small muffin tins. These muffins are very good keepers."


  • 2 1/2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons milk


  1. Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat thoroughly.
  2. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk and vanilla.
  3. Bake in muffin tins 1/2 full at 400°F for 20 minutes.
  4. While hot, roll in 1/2 cup melted margarine and then in 1 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Meaty Potato Cakes

This recipe is a winner for using leftover turkey or ham during the holidays.


  • 3 cups shredded raw potatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped, cooked turkey, ham or chicken
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour


  1. Combine the potatoes, meat, eggs, and onion in mixing bowl. Stir in salt, pepper and flour, mixing thoroughly.
  2. Have the griddle hot and well greased. Using a 1/4 cup measure, ladle the batter carefully onto the hot griddle, spreading to about 4 inches in diameter.
  3. Cook over medium heat three to four minutes on each side. Handle carefully when turning.

Reviewer's Choice Recipe: Apple Toss Salad

When reviewing cookbooks, I like to select a recipe to share with you I have personally prepared with good results. As the former editor of Homemaker Headlines newsletter, I printed the following recipe in the October, 1992 edition. Billie was very pleased to have one of her favorites as a featured recipe, and my readers complimented the addition of peanuts to the dish.


  • 1 quart cored, diced apples
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 (8-ounce) container lemon yogurt


  1. Combine apples, peanuts, celery, carrots and raisins. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Add yogurt and toss gently until well coated. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.
Early Photo of Billie Oakley

Early Photo of Billie Oakley

Recipe for Life

I hope these recipes from Billie's era will prove to be timeless and her wit has entertained you. Her wisdom was not found just in the kitchen, but in life also. The following poem from her cookbook demonstrates her recipes are not just about cooking, but about family.

Prescription for the Blues

One day when I was worried

And feeling very blue

I read a small "prescription"

That I will share with you.

It said, "When you are discouraged

Don't sit and fret and frown,

Just get a piece of paper

And write your blessings down."

I thought that there was nothing

For me to write about,

But long before I finished

My fountain pen ran out.

— Billie Oakley

Are You a Cookbook Collector?

© 2016 Thelma Raker Coffone

Related Articles