Through the years, cooks have added their own special touch to these recipes, but basically they still belong to the “back of the box” family.
I don’t know about you, but I have clipped these recipes and had every intention of putting them in a special file but most often they are pushed back in a kitchen drawer or tucked away in a box. When I decide to make one of these classics, I am disappointed when I can’t find the recipe.
In 1991, I was so glad to add “The Back of the Box Gourmet” cookbook written by Michael McLaughlin to my collection. This book is a compilation of almost every “back of the box” recipe you might want.
Keep your eye out for a copy of this cookbook when you go to yard sales or antique book stores. You might also want to check the Internet for a copy. I am sure you would be glad to have it among your favorite cookbooks.
Contrary to what you might think, this is not just an easy way to write a cookbook, because McLaughlin did a lot of background research into each recipe. Along with the recipe is a little food history.
Of course, the primary purpose of these recipes is to promote the product inside the box, bag or can. This is the same concept used by food companies who sponsor cooking contests. Many of the winning recipes from such contests have later found their place of merit on the “back of the box.”
You might be surprised to learn that even some restaurants rely on these “back of the box” recipes for the “secret” specialties.
McLaughlin tells a story about one tiny Italian restaurant that received a lot of fame for its wonderful cheesecake, and its “secret” recipe was guarded very closely.
As the author says, “If you knew someone, you might be lucky enough to get a contraband copy of the recipe, but you were sworn not to pass it on, not to reveal from whom you received it.”
Of course, it was most important that the restaurant not know that this secret was leaking out! Later it was discovered that this cheesecake, with the glamorous name “Hollywood Cheesecake,” actually was one from the Kraft kitchens promoting their Philadelphia cream cheese and was in wide circulation.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
2 packages (8 ounces each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine crumbs, sugar and margarine; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.
Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, rind and vanilla, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites; pour over crust. Bake at 300 degrees, 45 minutes. Combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Carefully spread over cheesecake; continue baking 10 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill. Makes 10 to 12 servings
Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including “Kitchen Keepers.” Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit prudencehilburn.com.
Prudence Hilburn: Test-kitchen products become ‘secret’ specialties