Cooks Exchange

Retro recipes are all the rage

Retro recipes are where it's at for church or family dinners, potlucks, parties and showers.

Food researchers predicted that the retro trend in food would continue to be strong in 2012. I think it is getting even stronger.

Internet food sites are filled with retro this and retro that, so are Pinterest and Facebook. Retro recipes, yes, the recipes of days of the '60s, '70s and '80s, are associated with comfort, and who doesn't want to take in a little comfort in these days of high grocery and gas prices?

At Sunday's church dinner, chicken and dumplings, cornbread dressing, barbecued meatballs, congealed gelatin salads, vegetable casseroles and old-time desserts like carrot cake and chocolate sheet cake with the boiled chocolate frosting were laid out on the tables. This was retro at its best.

Trends predicted a return to casseroles, the popularity of the meatball and the cool comfort of gelatin salads.

I prepared one of my late mother-in-law's favorite holiday salads and added my own touch. That's the fun of using old-time recipes; you can make them your own.

Yvonne Yeager loved this blueberry salad, and so does her son, who was pretty pleased that I made it for the dinner.

I took her salad and made it lower in sugar and fat, but kept the taste. I switched the gelatin from a grape or black cherry to sugar-free raspberry,

which my husband said he liked better.

Marion H. Ragni, who sent in two shower recipes for readers to try, agreed congealed salads work for any occasion from potlucks to bridal or baby showers.

For those upcoming shower menus, Ragni shares her cottage cheese salad, which is another retro recipe, and a creamy spinach dip. I offer my blueberry salad and a new lemon-pineapple gelatin dessert for consideration, too. I used blueberries that I had frozen for the salad. They worked well and provided just the right amount of liquid when defrosted.

"This is a staple we enjoy at any and all of our family gatherings and occasions," said Ragni. "For Christmas we use lime or cherry Jell-O."


24-ounces cottage cheese

1 large can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip

1 small box orange Jell-O

2 cans Mandarin oranges 

Drain fruit, add Cool Whip and cottage cheese. Sprinkle dry Jell-O over mix. Chill and enjoy. 

-- Submitted by Marion H. Ragni

"I just found another quick and easy appetizers for showers," Ragni said.


1 cup real mayonnaise

1 package Knorr Vegetable Soup mix

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 container (16 ounces) sour cream

Combine all ingredients and chill two hours. Hollow out crusty round bread (mountain bread) and place contents of dip in the bread. Or you can serve the dip with just crackers. Makes 4 cups. Enjoy.

-- Submitted by Marion H. Ragni


2 (3-ounce) packages sugar-free raspberry gelatin

2 cups boiling water

2 cups fresh blueberries or 1 (15-ounce) can blueberries (whole berries, not pie filling)

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Drain berries (if using canned or thawed) and pineapple, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Add liquid to gelatin. Stir in pineapple and blueberries. Pour into a 2-quart flat dish. Cool in refrigerator until firm.


1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar substitute (I used Splenda)

1 (8-ounce) reduced-fat sour cream

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine cream cheese, sugar substitute, sour cream and lemon flavoring. Spread over congealed gelatin and sprinkle with pecans. Chill until ready to serve.


1- 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar (I used Splenda)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)

1 jar (7-ounces) marshmallow crème

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1- 1/2 cups thawed whipped topping

1 cup boiling water

2 packages (3 ounces each) lemon gelatin (I used sugar-free)

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix first three ingredients until well blended. Press into bottom of 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 8 minutes; cool.

Beat cream cheese, marshmallow crème and vanilla in medium bowl with mixer until well blended. Whisk in whipped topping. Spread over cooled crust. Refrigerator until ready to use.

Add boiling water to gelatin; stir 2 minutes or until completely dissolved. Stir in pineapple. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until slightly thickened. Spoon over cream cheese-marshmallow layer, Refrigerate 2 hour or until firm.

-- From Kraft Foods


As promised, Jacqueline Espinoza Seavey, sous chef at Island View Casino in Gulfport, Miss., shares her winning root beer barbecue sauce recipe. Seavey and food manager Scott Hixson took first place in the lagniappe contest at Gulf Coast Symphony's annual Barbecue Under the Oaks.


(Yields 1 gallon)

1 pound hickory or apple wood smoked raw bacon, large dice

1 large Spanish onion, large dice

7 fresh garlic cloves, rough chop

2 large fresh jalapeno peppers, rough chop

2 ribs fresh celery, rough chop

1/4 pound fresh ginger root, peeled julienne

1 small orange (zest and juice)

1 liter bottle of Barq's root beer

3 packed cups light brown sugar

5- 1/2 cups Heinz chili sauce (equal to 44 ounces)

1- 1/2 cups soy sauce

1- 1/2 cups dark molasses

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander seed

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1- 1/2 tablespoons ground white pepper

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

In an 8-quart, heavy-bottomed sauce/stock pot, render the bacon until half cooked (slightly browned) then add the onion, garlic, jalapenos, celery and fresh ginger. Continue to cook on medium heat until vegetables are soft and the bottom of the pan is browned with bacon/vegetable fond (concentrated liquid stock).

Add orange zest and juice and root beer to deglaze the pan. Bring liquid to boil, then lower to medium high heat in order to "reduce" the root beer broth by half the original volume. Once the volume is half reduced, add brown sugar, chili sauce, soy sauce, molasses and vanilla extract. Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Add the optional Jack Daniel's Whiskey (in the last 5 minutes of simmering the sauce). Remove from heat. Add all dry spices. With an immersion or "stick" blender, puree the sauce until most chunks are gone. Strain sauce through a china cap strainer (perforated small holes, not mesh). Discard the solids after straining. Cool and label strained sauce. Keep refrigerated until needed.

-- Submitted by Jacqueline Espinoza Seavey

"This sauce is great basted on any pork, sausage, chicken or salmon on the grill," Seavey said.

Readers, now that we are into grilling season, send me your favorite grill or barbecue recipes.

Andrea Yeager, a freelance writer, can be reached at