Chapter Eight

Hard Times, Old Times, Good Times Desserts

Even hard times demand a little 'sweet' at the end of a meal, and these recipes give you that sweetness without a great deal of trouble. They are fairly easy and don"t require many ingredients, which is the problem with most dessert recipes. They either ask for a "12-cup ring mold" or a springform pan, or some intricate squeeze thing that pipes out cream. There is nothing wrong with these devices, but we who know hard times don't spend money on gadgets that just add calories. We may spend money on a good skillet, for the main part of the meal, but we avoid the gadgets for creme de brulee or cream puffs. You can have some wonderful good times with a bowl of fresh pineapple, some good ice cream with raspberry sauce, or a rich chocolate cake. You can also use the many good things in the grocery store, if you keep your head. Most supermarkets have excellent bakeries, and if you are a working person, time is money, too. Spend your time wisely, and serve some fresh fruit and a good oatmeal cookie. It's better for you and and your pocketbook.

Included here are some simple, fast, tasty desserts that we have tried and used for many years. Try them even if you don't like desserts. We don't, and these recipes have all served us well. Because of the nature of desserts, these recipes have amounts instead of proportions for the most part.

Ami's Dessert

This is the invention of an elegant lady, a grandmother who liked to watch her family grow and actually left them alone to do so. This is easy and fast and not terribly expensive, and looks elegant in a fancy dish or eaten right out of the bowl as a snack after dinner.

  1. Whip a cup of heavy cream.
  2. Tear (DON'T CUT, it ruins it) a bakery angel food cake (or make your own if you want). Tear it into pieces about two inches wide.
  3. Put it in a bowl and sprinkle about a third of a cup of good sherry over it. 4. Add some slivered almonds and pieces of pineapple, very small.
  4. Fold in the whipped cream, serve immediately.

You can tear the cake and add the almonds and sherry early in the day, cover and let it sit, then add the pineapple and the whipped cream right before serving. This is easy and elegant served in sherbet or parfait glasses.

Carli's Cake

This is one of those one size fits all kinds of desserts that are inexpensive, easy to do, and will fit any occasion. Use your imagination and have fun.

  1. Mix one package any flavor cake mix and one package INSTANT pudding mix of a matching flavor ,
  2. Add four eggs,beaten, one half cup of salad oil and one cup of water, beat three min. If the cake and pudding mix are chocolate, fold in some chocolate pieces and slivered almonds.
  3. Pour in a greased Bundt pan, bake at 350 for about 45 min. For high altitudes, use 1/3 cup of flour, one and one-quarter cup of water and bake at 375.


You can make a rum cake by using yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, half rum and water, and after the cake is done, poke holes and put a butter and rum mixture into the cake. Use any combination of cake and mix: spice cake and vanilla pudding, banana cake and banana cream pudding, lemon cake and lemon pudding. Decorate as desired with confectioners sugar, or glaze and little candies. If you don't have a Bundt pan, use a 9x13x2 inch pan.


In the summer, you can make a chocolate cake, put strawberries in the middle and around the edge.

Grandma's Ice Box Cake

This is a fast, cheap, easy cake that children love, and you can make your own changes with chocolate pieces, slices of banana, or whatever.

  1. In a large cake pan layer graham crackers.
  2. Mix a large package of chocolate pudding, (instant works here as well as cooked pudding) pour over the crackers.
  3. Put a layer of crackers over the chocolate pudding.
  4. Mix another large package of vanilla pudding, pour over crackers.
  5. Put whipped cream over the whole thing.
  6. Chill well.

Peach Melba

This is another easy but elegant dessert, a good times dinner companion

The Melba Sauce:

  1. Put one package of frozen defrosted raspberries in the blender, blend well.
  2. Put them in a saucepan,
  3. Stir in two-thirds of a cup sugar and one-eighth teaspoon cream of tartar.
  4. Heat to boiling and boil 3 minutes, stirring.
  5. Pour hot fruit through a sieve to remove seeds.
  6. Cover and chill.

The sauce thickens on chilling. You can use the sauce as soon as it is chilled, or you can keep it in the refrigerator until you need to use it.

The Dessert

  1. Place a scoop of good vanilla ice cream in a sherbet glass.
  2. Arrange two fresh or canned peach halves over the ice cream. Top with the Melba sauce.

Pumpkin Pie

This is a variation on the recipe on the Libby's can. We double the spices and use less sugar.

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix in the order given:
    • two eggs, slightly beaten
    • one half cup sugar
    • two teaspoons cinnamon
    • one teaspoon ground ginger
    • one-half teaspoon ground clove
    • one 12-oz can undiluted Evaporated milk
  3. Mix the ingredients in the order given.
  4. Pour into one unbaked pie shell.
  5. Bake 15 minutes at 425
  6. Reduce heat to 350. Bake 45 min.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies

This is a superior sort of cookie, one that both adults and children like.

  1. Cream one cup of butter and two cups of sugar together,
  2. Add two eggs,one tablespoon of molasses, and two teaspoons of vanilla.
  3. Combine
    • two cups of flour,
    • two teaspoons of cinnamon,
    • one-half teaspoon of baking soda
    • one teaspoon of salt,
  4. Gradually add to creamed mixture.
  5. Stir in
    • two cups of quick oats,
    • two-thirds cup of raisins,
    • about a cup of chopped nuts
    • about a half cup of chocolate pieces.
  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350 for 12 min.

Mincemeat Pie

This is one of those desserts that look difficult but are easier to make than a peanut butter sandwich.

  1. Take an unbaked pie shell, pour a jar of Mincemeat in it,
  2. . Put a top crust on and cut some squiggly design to let the steam out.
  3. Bake as directed on the bottle you just threw out. It always smells like Thanksgiving or Christmas when you do this pie.

from James Beard

This is a wonderful Good Times, festive dessert, good enough for a very special meal. Rich, it tastes like the traditional Italian dessert but doesn't need any last minute fussing.

  1. Beat about eight egg yolks very well
  2. Combine in a saucepan with:
    • two thirds of a cup of sugar
    • one Tablespoon of grated lemon rind
    • one cup of Marsala
  3. Beat over boiling water until thick.
  4. Transfer your pan to a bowl of ice, add one half of an envelope of gelatin, dissolved in two tablespoons of water, three tablespoons of Grand Marnier and beat until cold.
  5. Fold in one pint of heavy cream, whipped, and spoon into individual dishes or a mold. Freeze before serving.

Cookies Made With Cake Mix

These are very versatile because you can make cookies of any type or flavor with the same recipe, and children like to do this. It amuses them to make cookies when it says cake on the box.

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix one package of cake mix, two eggs and a half a cup of vegetable oil. 3. Stir in chocolate bits or nuts, or raisins, depending on the mix used.
  3. Drop on ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes


  • Use a spice cake with raisins, and nuts.
  • Use a banana cake with some mashed banana.
  • Use your imagination and whatever you have in the pantry.
  • Let your children choose, too, and make decisions. They have to eat the results, after all.


This is one of those old time recipes that is quite a lot of work, but a wonderful creation. ItŐs thin tube of fried pastry filled with a flavored ricotta cream, and came from Italy. As usual, itŐs a memory from childhood and one of those special treats that Grandma made. Grandma didn't work full time, so she made her own Cannoli shells. That's the problem with a lot of these wonderful Old World recipes, they take a great deal of time, but once in a while, it's fun.

Buy Cannoli shells at an Italian bakery or specialty shop or use the recipe that follows if you must make them yourself

  1. Mix one pound of flour with eight ounces of confectioners sugar, four tablespoons of shortening, or lard, one half cup of vinegar, and one half cup of cold water. After you have mixed this, cover with a plastic bag for about ten minutes and let it rest.
  2. Work this dough and roll out as if for pie crust. Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter. Roll around the cannoli for, close it well and drop it into hot oil or shortening. Fry until brown, drain and cool. They are now ready for filling.

For the filling mix

  1. Mix the following:
    • one container of ricotta,
    • a little sugar,
    • some shaved dark chocolate
    • a little cinnamon to taste.
  2. Fill shells, sift some confectioners sugar over the top.

You have to have the right forms to put the dough on to fry the shells. I have an old cut-up broomstick that my Grandmother used for years. The paint was sanded off, and in the many baths in hot oil they had, the pieces of wood are like satin. So either cut up a broomstick or write to your local gourmet shot for the metal tubes. ( My broomstick pieces are more fun, though. I tell people that when I got tired of riding the broom, I used it for Cannoli shells.)

Pignolata or Pinon Nut Pastry

Pignolata is Italian for pinon nuts, and the dough pieces look like little pinons. This is a very old recipe from Southern Italy, called Strufola also by people from Naples. Don't let on that you heard that from me.

  1. Make a well in one cup of flour add one egg and mix well with your hands.
  2. Knead until smooth.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap for 5- 10 min.
  4. Cut into small pieces,roll into pencil size rolls, greasing your hands with a little olive oil.
  5. Cut each pencil piece into tiny diamond shaped pieces and fry in vegetable oil in a deep pot, don't use a frying pan.
  6. When pignolata is golden, remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  7. Bring about a third of a cup of honey to a boil, add pignolata and stir until well coated.
  8. Arrange on a plate in a ring shape, sprinkle with colored candies.

This recipe makes one dish: and it helps if the dish is the one with the bumpy flowers, the one that Grandma used. Find one your Grandma had, and use that.


This is an old style cookie recipe, which means twice cooked. You make the oblong of dough, bake it for a while, then cut it and put the individual cookies back in the oven to crisp on both sides, baking twice.

  1. Sift together in a large bowl:
    • three and one quarter cups of flour
    • two and one half Tablespoons of baking powder
    • a dash of salt
  2. In a smaller bowl, break six eggs
  3. Add:
    • one cup of sugar,
    • five Tablespoons of butter at room temperature,
    • one ounce of anise extract
  4. Mix well, add to the flour mixture
  5. Mix all well.
  6. .Add a package of slivered almonds, and some anise seeds, about a tablespoon or two, depending on your taste.
  7. On one large cookie sheet, form this dough into an oblong about 12 inches long and 3-4 inches wide.

    If you wet your hands well it's easier to handle.

  8. Put this shaped loaf into a preheated 350 oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure that the middle of the loaf is done.
  9. Remove from heat, cut crosswise on the loaf into biscoti shapes.
  10. Put these slices on another baking sheet and bake for five minutes on each side at 350. Watch carefully.
  11. Remove from heat as the cookies are done and cool on a rack.

Anne's Blueberry Crisp

This receipt comes from our daughter Anne. It is a good simple, fairly low calorie dessert that you can use with whatever fruit you have, and it can be expanded to fit a bigger group.

  1. Heat oven to 375.
  2. Arrange three cups fresh or 16 ounces of frozen unsweetened blueberries in square glass pan.
  3. Sprinkle with two teaspoons of lemon juice.
  4. In another bowl, mix
    • two-thirds of a cup of packed brown sugar,
    • one-half cup of flour,
    • one-half cup of oats,
    • one-third cup of margarine,
    • one teaspoon of cinnamon
    • a dash of salt.
  5. Sprinkle on top of berries.
  6. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with cream or ice cream, or serve cold. This can also be microwaved for 12-14 min.


This works with apples and fresh peaches, also.