Last year provided a lively time of culinary transition.The steep rise in food costs leveled out somewhat. Despite a few scares, such as the sudden jump in the cost of iceberg lettuce during the fall and a disastrous raisin-grape harvest, the food shortages of the past few years were less evident. Home gardeners and home canners were more at ease.

Cooks continued their experiments with cuisines of other lands, continued to ask for more recipes that didn't use meat, that were "diet," that minimized sweets. But readers didn't abandon hearty dishes or chocolate desserts entirely. Do-them-yourself convenience recipes proved very popular, as did plans for recycling leftovers and recipes for some old favorites.

Here is a baker's dozen of the most-requested among the more than 900 recipes that appeared in the Food Section during 1976.

The Editors CHEESE KRISPIES (Makes 3 dozen) 1/2 pound butter or margarine 1/2 pound sharp cheese, grated 2 cups flour 2 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt Dash cayenne pepper 3/4 cup chopped pecans 2 cups Rice Krispies

Mix together softened butter or margarine and grated cheese. Blend in all other ingredients. Fold Rice Krispies in last. Chill for one hour. Shape into small balls and press down onto cookie sheet with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve warm or cold. BRAN OATMEAL MUFFIN MIX (Makes 4 dozen medium muffins) 2 cups boiling water 2 cups 100 per cent bran 1 cup shortening 3 cups sugar (white or brown or mixed) 4 eggs 1 quart buttermilk 5 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 5 teaspoon baking soda 4 cups uncooked oatmeal

Pour boiling water over the bran and set aside while mixing the rest of the ingredients. Cream sugar and shortening, add eggs, buttermilk, flour, salt and soda. Add cereals last. Use some of mix if desired, refrigerating remainder. Pour into well-greased muffin tins until 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. For batter just out of the refrigerator, bake 20 to 25 minutes at the same temperature.

Raisins, nuts or dates may be added, but just before baking only. GERI'S SPICY CAPONATA (Makes 10 servings) 10 overripe tomatoes or two 10-ounce cans tomato sauce 1 large onion, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 green pepper, minced 2 stalks celery, chopped 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium or large eggplant, cut in bite-size pieces 5 green olives, chopped 1 teaspoon capers 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine 1/2 teaspoon each tarragon, basil and oregano 2 bay leaves

Cut up the tomatoes and puree them in a blender; start cooking blended tomatoes on high heat in a covered pan. Lower the heat and simmer. If using tomato sauce, pour into saucepan and stir over low heat.

In another pan saute the onion, garlic, pepper and celery in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add diced eggplant, unpeeled. Add olives and capers. Add tarragon, basil and oregano (to taste) and 2 bay leaves, broken up. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Add mixture to tomato sauce. Add vinegar and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of wine. Cover and simmer 30 minutes longer.

Serve mixture hot or cold spooned onto large crackers or bread. BLENDER PESTO (Makes about 2 1/2 cups) 2 cups basil leaves, washed and dried and packed down 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 teaspoon salt 8 to 10 grinds black pepper 3 tablespoons pine nuts 1/2 cup olive oil 1/2 cup freshly grated cheese (romano or a mixture of romano and parmesan)

Place basil, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and pine nuts in the bowl of a blender. Turn on low and pour in oil. As mass forms increase speed and blend only until basil is in tiny fragments. Do not homogenize or allow to become heated. Scrape into a bowl and blend in cheese. Use, refrigerate or freeze (omitting cheese). CHILI CRABS a la CHANGI BEACH PARK KIOSK (Serves 2 or 3) 6 large (or 8 medium) Maryland hard-shelled crabs 1 quart corn or peanut oil 2 fresh red chilis, seeds removed and chopped finely 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 10 ounces chicken stock (fresh or canned) 3 tablespoons tomato sauce 1/2 tablespoon hot chili sauce 1/2 tablespoon wine vinegar 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water 1 egg, lightly beaten

Kill crabs by piercing middle of belly with knife point or ice pick. Remove claws and smash slightly. Remove shells and clean, discarding lungs and roe (or have this done at the market).

Deep fry crab pieces in boiling corn or peanut oil for 1 minute. If necessary, fry in batches.Remove crab pieces with a slotted spoon. Transfer 2 tablespoons of oil to a wok or deep skillet. Fry finely chopped chilis, ginger and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, without burning them. Add crab pieces and stir fry for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients (except cornstarch mixture and egg). Stir and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture, stir in and simmer for 1 minute. Add beaten egg and stir for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: Handle red chilis with care. They can burn the eyes or lips, so wash hands after preparing them. R. W. APPLE'S BEEF SATAY (Serves 4) 1 1/2 pounds round steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/2 bottle dry red wine 3 tablespoons soy sauce 2 teaspoons oregano 2 tablespoons salad oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce 1 tablespoon powdered ginger 1/2 small onion, finely minced Pinch salt 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/2 cup peanut butter 1/4 cup buttermilk

Place meat cubes on 12 skewers. Mix wine, soy, oregano and oil and pour over skewered meat in a nonmetallic baking dish. Marinate meat for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

In a saucepan, mix garlic, pepper sauce, ginger, onion, salt and curry powder. Add peanut butter and buttermilk.Stir over low heat to combine ingredients for about 10 minutes. Let cool. Before serving, reheat with 1/4 cup marinade or more as needed to give sauce a slightly runny consistency.

Broil skewered meat for 3 to 5 minutes to reach desired stage of cooking. Serve on a platter; pass source separately. Before eating, dip meat into sauce, gingerly or firmly depending on your affection for spicy heat.

Note: This sauce may be used as well with marinated cubes of pork, chicken or lamb shank. ZUCCHINI SOUFFLE (Makes 6 servings) 5 to 6 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds) 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 slices white bread 1 cup milk 1 onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 eggs 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Wash the zucchini and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place the zucchini slices in a 3-quart saucepan and add 1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until zucchini is fork tender. Place in a colander and drain well.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl soak the bread, which has been torn into bite-size pieces, in the milk. In an 8-to 10-inch skillet saute the onion and the garlic in the butter and oil over low heat until soft, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Prepare a 1 1/2-quart souffle dish by generously buttering the inside.

Return the drained zucchini to a saucepan and mash it thoroughly with a fork. Add the soaked bread, squeezing out the excess milk. Mix into the zucchini thoroughly.

In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs until they are light and frothy. Add the eggs, sauteed onion and garlic to the zucchini mixture. Gently fold in the cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Pour into buttered souffle dish and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes or until firm in FAVORITES, From F12> the center. Serve it at once. This is a delightful accompaniment to baked chicken or leg of lamb. CHICKEN STOLTZFUS 5 pound roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces 4 quarts water 1 tablespoon salt 6 black peppercorns 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron 12 tablespoons butter 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) flour 2 cups light cream 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley Pastry Squares (see below)

When I make Chicken Stoltzfus, I use a large roasting chicken; it has much more fat and flavor.

Put the chicken in an 8-quart pan with the water, and bring to a boil. Skim off the scum; then add the salt, peppercorns and saffron. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken and cool a little. Strain stock and reserve 6 cups. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones and cut meat into bite-size pieces.

Melt the butter and mix in the flour. Cook over medium-low heat until golden and bubbling, then stir in the reserved chicken stock and the cream, stirring constantly, and cook over high heat until the sauce comes to a boil. Simmer until thickened and smooth. Reduce heat, add chicken pieces and parsley.

While chicken is simmering, make the pastry squares. PASTRY SQUARES 1/2 cup lard 1/2 cup butter 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (approximately) ice water

Cut the lard and butter into the flour and salt with a pastry blender, or mix with your fingers until it forms crumbs. Sprinkle ice water over crumbs with left hand while tossing crumbs lightly with right hand, using only enough water to keep the dough together. Press dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 parts. Roll out each part in a large rectangle on an ungreased cookie sheet (roll the dough directly onto the sheet), about 1/2-inch thick. Cut dough into 1-inch squares with a pastry wheel or sharp knife.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Arrange the pastry squares on a platter and spoon the chicken mixture over them. HENRY HALLER'S SAUCE VERTE (Makes 1 quart) 1 bunch watercress, washed and dried 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 6 drops hot pepper sauce 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon white pepper 1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (optional) 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 2 cups sour cream 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise 2 drops green food coloring (optional)

Cut off botton third of watercress stems and discard. Chop remaining cress and place in a glass or stainless steel bowl with Worcestershire, hot pepper sauce and salt. Mix together and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Place a square of cheesecloth in another bowl (2-quart size) and spoon cress plus juice onto cheesecloth. Gather corners together, turn cloth and gently squeeze out juice. There should be no more than 1/2 cup. Discard any excess as well as cheesecloth and watercress (or use watercress in a mixed green salad). Add white pepper, MSG and mustard, and blend into liquid. Add sour cream and stir with a whisk to combine with juice. When of an even consistency, stir in mayonnaise. Taste and adjust flavor as desired.Add food coloring and stir in. Serve at room temperature, placing a dollop atop or beside poached fish, and passing the remainder in a sauce boat. POULTRY SEASONING (Makes scant 1/2 cup) 2 tablespoons dried marjoram 2 tablespoons dried parsley 2 tablespoons dried savory 1 tablespoon dried sage 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Combine ingredients and store in airtight container. Use as you would any commercially prepared poultry seasoning. OLD-FASHIONED CHOCOLATE CAKE 2 cups brown sugar 1/2 cup butter 2 eggs 3/4 cup buttermilk 1/2 cup cocoa 1/2 cup boiling hot strong coffee 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Cream the sugar, butter and eggs until fluffy. Mix in the buttermilk. Combine the cocoa and coffee in a saucepan, adding the liquid very slowly to prevent lumping, the mix into the creamed mixture. Moisten the baking soda with vinegar and stir in with the salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour, beating until smooth. Pour into a greased and floured 13-by-9-inch cake pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. Cool. Ice with caramel icing. CARAMEL ICING 1/2 cup butter 1 cup brow sugar 1/4 cup evaporated milk Pinch of salt 1 3/4 to 2 cups confectioners' sugar (enough for a spreading consistency)

Melt butter in a saucepan; add the brown sugar and boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and salt and stir until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar, beating until the icing is thick enough to spread. IMPOSSIBLE PIE (Makes 1 pie) 1 stick (4 ounces) margarine 2 cups milk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup granulated sugar 4 eggs 1/2 cup flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup shredded coconut or crush pineapple

Place all ingredients in a blender and combine thoroughly. Grease and flour a 10-inch pie pan. Pour mixture into pan and bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until set. "Pie" will make its own crust as it cooks. Serve at room temperature. HOT MOCHA MIX (Makes about 6 cups) 1 cup unsweetened cocoa 2 cups sugar 4 cups nonfat dry milk powder 3/4 cup instant coffee powder 1 vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pack mixture into airtight container. Store mixture for a week to allow vanilla flavor to be absorbed.

Use three tablespoons for every 6 ounces of boiling water. Stir well and serve.