Thursday, March 21, 2013

21 March 1953 “Another Lesson from 1950’s for Today: Prepared Mixes + Homemade= Happy Family. Making Your Own Mixes”

 bettycrockercakead I thought today I’d touch on one item of the list I had made up for myself from the “lessons from 1950’s for today”. When I sat down to consider the things that changed my life from my 1955 project it really became that list. It then gave me a further push to consider other things from then that I could continue to learn and then incorporate in a realistic way into today’s living.

One of those things has been to make my own mixes. As I now work about 15 hours out of the home, I find with my increased responsibilities, mixes and make-ahead really do help. Though I am not willing to use store made because of many of the questionable ingredients. However, it is surprisingly easy to make your own mixes and make-ahead. Giving oneself an arsenal of such easy homemade mixes actually can give the homemaker, even the working one, a leg up on staying healthy and homemade.

Here is a 1950’s commercial for Betty Crocker Cake mixes:

I have increasingly begun to really see, from an historic point, the decade of the 1950’s as an almost Rosetta Stone of modern living perfections. Oh, sure, there were many things wrong with the decade, we could list them, but really it seemed a time that middle class living was enjoyable enough to not even give one a notion of rising through the classes. In the 19th century, the middle class often copied the upper classes in their own attempt to rise above. In the 1950’s an entire section of the country suddenly found themselves middle class and rather than looking to an ideal above them, sort of dug their heels in and thought, “We’ve made it” and really began to create a unique middle class experience.

At this time the increased amount of products that had come about from the need of transporting food long distances and also chemical warfare had made a vast array of new products possible in the peace of 1950’s. Prepared foods, no-iron sheets, mixes and all sorts of prodcuts to make our lives easier. This aim, of course, was to give our increasing free time a boost by letting a mother at home (who often didn’t work another job) the ability to take care of her family and home, but also to have more of her own free time. Even Father’s working hours were decreasing in the 1950’s as a promise for shorter hours were foretold for the future. We know, obviously, see that is not true. We all work more hours, for less pay per hour in contrast to earnings at the top, and both parents and often even teenage children work to contribute to the families income. And the amount of people who need assistance from the government to get by is far greater than it ever was in the 1950s.

Yet, in that condensed series of 10 years we seemed to get it right. Profits were there 10 fold for the big guy and the growing corporations, but also a decent wage was able to be had by the middle class and working classes. Laws made it more sensible for companies to stay in the USA and use our own labor. To grow and make our own at home and to export it out to war torn Europe. When those laws on Imports and exports changed in the 1970’s we began to see the beginning of what we currently have.

But, again, back to the 1950’s and my point. There was enough for all because there was less greed and a bit more thought of caring for your neighbor and considering the affect of the country as a whole rather than simply the bottom line, the profit margin and the ever increasing (and as we are beginning to see) unrealistic model of continual growth. There was an idea of “here we are we made it through the war and we are going to make a better world for all to enjoy” not “we must get more and more growth, make more and more products that don’t last and disguise the ever increasing buying power of the dollar with the illusion of ‘freedoms’ to allow both parents to work. Rather than what would become the actual need of a two income middle class family.

Again, I am getting off track. My point for today is that with an increasing amount of prepared mixes and pre-maid items combined with training to make from scratch garnered from parents and grandparents, the 1950’s homemaker would have built this hybrid of home-made and boxed cooking. Today, however, we are becoming more aware of the idea that many of the unknown chemicals in our food might very well be leading to our own ill health. And a sort of distrust of premade is beginning to permeate our modern way of thinking. And in fact, in the beginning of the 1950’s many homemakers distrusted the mixes as well, though not because of chemicals, but because it seemed almost cheating. Either way you view it, having pre made does make it quicker and more likely that a busy homemaker (working or not) can provide healthy food for her family.

choccakemix I keep my mixes in labeled jars. Here I have my choc cake mix. The label is a chalkboard label cut down to fit the jar. This allows me to change out what I use the jar for. I believe they are Martha Stewart labels, but really any label would do. And adding a label on the back of the jar with the instructions of what to add to your mix is good in case you forget or so that you won’t have to look it up in your recipe card box.

cakemixcake Here is the cake I whipped up this morning with my cake mix and pre-made frosting.

cakemixcakeupclose See it is a bit more dense than a store bought but so much richer and satisfying.

There are countless varieties of make ahead mixes out there. This is my basic chocolate cake mix. I used to just use my basic cake mix and then add melted chocolate to it, which I will still do sometimes, but I found having some made ahead is good. Again, it is a time saver for you but still controlling what goes into your food and thus your family as well.
Here is my make ahead dry chocolate cake mix recipe:

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 2 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of cocoa powder
  • This get’s stored in a covered jar and lasts around 6 months, though by then I am usually making a new batch anyway. This basically makes enough mix for two cakes so you could half the recipe and store it as a stand alone cake box mix. I like to have enough for at least two on hand.
    To make the cake simply mix the the following by hand or mixer in a bowl for about 3 minutes. Then back in two 8” pans or one 13 x 9 pan at 350 F (176 C) for 20-25 minutes.
    1. 4 cups mix (about 1/2 the jar-be sure to mix jar ingredients around before scooping out your 4 cups)
    2. 3/4 cups of milk
    3. 1 tsp of vanilla
    4. 1/2 cup of butter (melted)
    5. 3 eggs
    You can use this same mix for brownies but simply omit the milk and increase the butter (softened not melted here) to 3/4 cup. Or you can use this make ahead brownie mix, which I usually do anyway just to keep them separate.
    Dry Brownie Mix

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    To this add
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • mix about 50 strokes and pour into 13 x 9 pan. Add choc chips, walnuts, coconut on top you name it. It is a great, add to mix.
  • frostingmixad As we all know it is quite easy to find pre-made frosting/icing in the store today. And at one time even frosting mixes were more prevalent, but as people moved away from home baking, the pre-made simply won out and usually it is easier to find that then the mix at stores. But, again, we can make our own pre made frosting quite easily and store it in the ice box. This is the basic recipe that is just a white frosting that you can add whatever you like to. For my chocolate frosting I usually melt 1/2 cup choc chips or chocolate bar with 1 tbs butter and mix into it. You could add chocolate syrup or any flavoring you like. It is the equivalent of a store bought pre-made frosting. And you can make cute labels or decorate the glass jar as you like. You could store it in plastic as well, but I have really moved away from plastic and use mainly glass. There are so many cute vintage glass ice box dishes and canning jars that I prefer it myself.

    3/4 cup confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
    1/2 cup butter
    5 tbsp. skimmed dried milk
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
    1 tsp. vanilla
    Water to make a stiff mix

    Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl of electric beater. Blend well. Store in refrigerator. To use, remove and let stand at room temperature to soften. Also mixing peanut butter and chocolate to this makes an amazing icing for cupcakes!
    I found this recipe online somewhere, it may have been, but not sure. It is again a good base upon which we can build. We might find we want to add or subtract more. Or make the chocolate and coconut flavored frosting first and store it like that to make cake day even easier! The idea here is to make the use of mixes not be unhealthy and to make home made easier for our increasingly busy lives.

    There are so many types of home made mixes out there. We should share or discuss any in the comments, if you feel so inclined. And I might do another post listing more. For now, here are some basic make aheads I like to have on hand.

    Instead of Jiffy Corn bread mix, make the following to replace it:

    Corn Bread Mix
    4 C. unbleached flour
    4 C. yellow cornmeal
    2 C. nonfat dry milk (or buttermilk powder or milk powder substitute)
    1 C. sugar
    1/2 C. baking powder
    1 Tbsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. salt
    to Make: use 1 1/4 cup mix and add:
    1 egg, beaten
    1/2 C. water
    2 Tbsp melted butter

    Bake at 425 degrees.  Mix egg, water and oil. Bake in greased 8" x 8" pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown
    bisquickWhat is fun with these homemade mixes is when we encounter old recipes that include the mix, we can simply make it with our own homemade mix. As an example there are vintage recipes using the then popular bisquick mix. Well, an easy homemade bisquick mix is as follows. This is the readily available on line version which includes shortening.

    6 cups all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons baking powder
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 cup vegetable shortening

    1 Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times into a large bowl.
    2 Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
    3 Store mixture in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 months.
    4 Use whenever your recipe calls for "Bisquick mix".

    However, as this is stored in the ice box anyway, I substitute lard or sometimes even butter for the 1 cup vegetable shortening. That is up to you. Then you can try some of these fun vintage bisquik recipes without worry of what’s in there! Like these old kitschy recipes. But, really any recipe for bisquick you then encounter in looking at old recipe books, the above works wonders. And in my opinion is so much better with good lard or butter instead of shortening. The same can be done with make ahead soups as well to use in lieu of these recipes.

    Canned chicken and frozen vegetables for the easy party dish that makes a calm hostess.
    12-oz. pkg. frozen mixed vegetables
    1 can cream of celery soup
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1 soup can of water
    1/8 tsp. celery seeds
    14-oz.can boneless chicken fricassee, cut smaller
    1/4 cup Bisquick
    1/4 cup water
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 cup Bisquick
    1/3 cup milk
    1/4 cup chopped parsley
    Cook vegetables in 1/2 cup boiling salted water 7 min. Add soups, water, celery seeds, and bring to a boil. Add chicken. Mix 1/4 cup Bisquick with water; stir in; cook until thickened. Season. Mix Bisquick, milk, parsley, and drop by spoonfuls on hot mixture. Cook over low heat 10 min. uncovered and 10 min. covered. 4 to 6 servings.


    Inexpensive but so good!
    1/2 cup chopped onion
    2 tbsp. butter
    1 lb. ground beef
    1/4 cup Bisquick
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. flavor extender
    1/2 tsp. garlic salt
    1/2 tsp. sugar
    1 cup tomato sauce
    1/4 cup sour cream
    2/3 cup cream
    2 cups Bisquick
    Heat oven to 400° (mod. hot). Sauté onion slightly in butter. Add meat; cook about 2 min. Add Bisquick, salt, flavor extender, garlic salt, sugar. Add tomato sauce, sour cream; mix well. Heat. Add cream to Bisquick, stir. Beat 15 strokes. Roll around on cloth-covered board lightly dusted with Bisquick. Knead gently 10 times to smooth up. Roll into two 10″ sq. Cut into eight 5″ sq. Put 1/3 cup filling on half of each sq. Fold over; seal edges with fork. Place on baking sheet. Make slits on top. Brush with butter. Bake 15 to 20 min. Makes 8 turnovers.

    So, really the point is this: We are all busy. We like the convenience of boxed mixes but want to be more cautious of what we are eating. If even the busiest homemaker can give over ONE day out of the month, even just half of that one day, to make the mixes. Then her/his pantry can be an arsenal of well made thought out healthy mixes ready for that busy day when you need to make some brownies for the gals sudden bridge party. Or the church bazaar or school needs some brownies for the bake sale, just grab your pre-made mixes and surprise them all with your home-made skills.

    I will share more such make aheads in future posts but let’s hear some of your own to make life a little easier but more home-made.

    Happy Homemaking.


    1. Great stuff- I will definitely try some of those. I do all my cooking and baking from scratch but never thought about making the mix ahead of time!

    2. Thank you for the cake mixes, I will save them and make them for sure. Have a lovely weekend. :)

    3. I will be trying some of these out! How wonderfully put “here we are we made it through the war and we are going to make a better world for all to enjoy”. If only that idea and motto had lasted through the years.

    4. I haven't commented in a long time, but I "check in" on you once in a while. This was a great, well-written post. Not all families used mixes (ours), but my mom definitely used more convenience items used such as frozen and canned foods/meals.

      Homemade mixes are wonderful. Thanks for the recipes. I'll add these to my list to try. Have you tried your own salad dressing, rubs, and seasoning mixes? Those are great, too, because you can control the amount of salt (and other non-pronounceable chemicals) used.

      Make-a-Mix and More Make-a-Mix cookbook (believe it is in one volume now) is a good reference for those who might think they don't have the knowledge to make their own mixes. (Some of the recipes I still use all the time.)

    5. Thank you so much for this series. I have been reading them to my husband (a mental health professional for 30 years) and he was nodding in agreement.
      Random question: How is your weight loss going? I am once again reaching my "all time high" and am SOOOO tired of starting again even though I know I must. Have you researched "50's" reducing plans? Was it just common sense and portion control? Thank you for such an awesome spot in blogland, Dee

    6. Actually, I have been losing some pounds as of late. I have gone down two dress sizes ( I still would like to drop three more sizes for my ideal). It is eating less or more accurate 1950's portions, and cutting out snacking. And when I want a snack a piece of fruit instead of a 'just a sliver of that cake I made'.
      It can be hard with today's easily available food. With Spring coming, I will be busy outdoors as well which will increase my exercise.
      I will be doing more 'lessons' in the future as I get to them.
      I am glad you enjoy them.
      Good to see you Packrat, as well as PL on here again. IT's like Old old times.


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