Cooking was a lot more complicated in the 1800's than it is today. You'd think food would be much simpler, but, in fact, much of the time it was more complicated than what we prepare nowadays. Here are a few recipes your characters might have encountered, along with the books from which they were taken.
Good Family Bread
The Young Housekeeper’s Friend, 1864
For five common-sized loaves, make a pint and a half of thin water gruel. Use half a teacupful of fine Indian meal. Salt it a little more than if it were to be eaten as a gruel, and boil ten of fifteen minutes. This is of importance, as, if the meal is only scalded, the bread will be coarse. Add enough milk to make two quarts of the whole. If the milk is new, the gruel may be poured into it in the pan; if it is not, it should be scalded in the kettle with the gruel. This is particularly important in the summer, as at that season milk, which is but a few hours old, and is sweet when put into the bread, will sour in the dough in a short time. When the mixture is cool, so that you are sure it will not scald, add a teacupful of yeast, and then stir in sifted flour* enough to make a thick batter. This is called a sponge. This being done in the evening, let it stand, if in summer, in a cool place, if in winter, in a moderately warm place, till morning. Then add flour enough to make it easy to mould, and knead it very thoroughly.
A half an hour is the least time to be given to kneading a baking of bread, unless you prefer, after having done this till it ceases to stick to your hands, to chop it with a chopping-knife four or five hundred strokes. An hour’s kneading is not too much.
After it is thoroughly kneaded, divide it into four or five equal pieces, and mould according to the form of the pans in which you bake it. These being greased with clean drippings, put in the dough and set it in the sun or near the fire (according to the season) to rise. Loaves of this size will bake in an hour; if the oven be rather hot, in a few minutes short of an hour.
*All kinds of flour and meal should be sifted for use, except buckwheat and Graham flour
Old Fashioned Turnip Soup
What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, 1881
2 lb. veal bones 1 lb. turnips
1/2 gal. water salt and pepper to taste
Take two pounds veal bones to half a gallon of water, and boil [down] to one quart. Put turnips and bones to boil together. Then strain the liquor off and send to table hot. Season while cooking with pepper and salt.
Snitz and Knep
Godey's Lady's Book 1866
Take of sweet dried apples (dried with the skins on, if you can get them) about one quart. Put them in the bottom of a porcelain or tin-lined boiler with a cover. Take a nice piece of smoked ham washed very clean and lay on top; add enough water to cook them nicely. About twenty minutes before dishing up, add the following dumplings:
Mix a cup of warm milk with one egg, a little salt, and a little yeast, and enough flour to make a sponge. When light, work into a loaf. Let stand until about twenty minutes before dinner, then cut off slices or lumps, and lay on the apples and let steam through.
Godey's Lady's Book 1860
Peel and slice some mild onions (ten or twelve, in proportion to their size) and fry them in fresh butter, draining them well when you take them up; then mince them as fine as possible; beat four eggs very light and stir them gradually into a pint of milk, in turn with the minced onions; season the whole with plenty of grated nutmeg, and stir it very hard; then put it into a deep white dish and bake it abut a quarter of an hour. (Bake at 350mins.) Send it to table as a side dish, to be eaten with meat or poultry. It is a French preparation of onions and will be found very fine.
Civil War Cooking: The Housekeepers Encyclopedia, 1861
Egg whites, beaten stiff Shredded coconut meat
Boiled custard Sponge cake
As in many recipes of this period, the term "cocoa" does not mean anything resembling chocolate. It means "coconut"
Beat the whites of eggs stiff, grate the white part of a of cocoa-nut, Mix the egg and nut together, sweeten to the taste; prepare a boiled custard, pour it over sponge cake, and lay the egg and cocoa on the top.