Saturday, November 16, 2019

Sweetpotatoes and cranberries gone wild!

I posted about The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Cookbook (Celebrity Kitchen, Inc. in cooperation with United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, 1973) in the summer, as that's generally the height of fresh fruit and veggie season. However, the book also has plenty of recipes to celebrate harvest season, so here are a few Thanksgiving-appropriate recommendations.

If you live in the south, maybe it's kind of warm to want to make a big roast turkey? (I don't know-- I'm usually wishing I had more time to bake everything in sight to help heat up my apartment by late November!) Well, if you want a cool and easy Thanksgiving dinner, here's a combination the family is sure to remember for generations to come:

Fill a molded cranberry salad ring with a mound of turkey salad. Just buy some rolls from the bakery so everyone can make their own turkey salad mini-sandwiches and dinner is served! (And if you're lucky, the turkey salad can come from the deli. Holiday dinner has never been so chill.)

Bonus content: If you want your cranberry and turkey to be together in the same salad, rather than mounding one salad into the other, Community Favorites: Meat Magic (Favorite Recipes Press, 1965) offers this as an option:

If you want to go the more traditional route, though, you can stuff the cranberries into the turkey rather than plopping the turkey into the cranberries:

I love how the editors write "sweetpotato" as one word! They really love their sweetpotato stuffing, too. For those who are not so crazy about cranberries in the stuffing, there are a couple of alternatives. If you want a special stuffing for your turkey, try Sweetpotato Stuffing for Turkey.

If you really love sausage stuffing, then Sweetpotato-Sausage Stuffing might be more your speed.

And if you suspect the editors might not have been paying too much attention because this is the exact same recipe with two different titles, then congratulations! You are more observant than the editors, who put these "two" recipes on the exact same page, one atop the other. But hey, it's Thanksgiving! Interactions with family tend to go a lot better if nobody looks too closely or thinks too hard, so the editors must have been going with that mindset. (Nobody really wants to know what Uncle Bill meant by that comment, right?) So have another glass of wine and dig into those cranberries, sweetpotatoes, and whatever else isn't nailed down! (Well, except your relatives. I hope they are neither nailed down nor dug into!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Heating Up the Blender

I often write about blender cookbooks in the summer because they have so many chilled recipes, but rather than using the *delightful* cold snap as an excuse to check out a soup or baking cookbook, I decided to showcase some hot foods from the blender. The Blender Way to Better Cooking (edited by Betty Sullivan, 1965) is back to warm us up rather than cool us down!

Good, hot soup is a cold-weather staple, though, so I won't skip it. Let's start the meal with something hot and creamy. Cream of mushroom or cream of chicken are so overdone, though.

So how about Hot Cream of Avocado Soup? (Hot avocados just seem weird to me, but your mileage may vary.)

For the main course, here's something that calls for running so much meat through a blender that I'm reminded of my first job... working as a cook in a nursing home.

Of course, our old people didn't get blender-chopped liver-and-onion burgers wrapped in bacon. They just got Salisbury steak liquified with a little milk. (I'm not sure which is worse, but it's probably the Salisbury steak since it didn't have any bacon.)

Of course, we should have a salad to go with the burgers, but it's hard to get too excited about chilled salad greens on a frigid day. A warm salad is just the thing...

Of course, maybe those cold, raw salad greens will seem more exciting if the alternative is iceberg lettuce chopped up in the blender, sautéed for ten minutes, and then soaked in a chicken broth-bread-sour cream sauce and topped with more bread crumbs.

A nice, old-fashioned steamed pudding should finish the meal off in a cozy way.

This looks like a pretty standard carrot-cakish type deal at first. Then I realized that in place of the can of crushed pineapple, this calls for two medium potatoes, cut in pieces and then blender-grated after the carrots. Potatoes are pretty awesome in most applications, so who knows? Maybe they belong in carrot cake too. A weird surprise can help make a cold snap a little more bearable, and I am waaay more willing to make this claim for potatoes in dessert than for hot lettuce with liver burgers. Stay warm, everyone!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Casseroles as TV Dinners

The illustration on the cover page of The Casserole Cookbook (director Melanie de Proft for the Culinary Arts Institute, 1956) suggests what the cookbook is all about:

Mom wants to be able to watch TV with the rest of the family and would feel bad if she kept serving Swanson TV dinners all the time, so it was this little book to the rescue.

Of course, the combinations were sometimes strange compared to the turkey with buttered peas and potatoes Swanson offered, but I'm sure the per-serving costs were waaay lower.

The kids might not be too thrilled with deviled eggs served over noodles in an evaporated-milk-and-tomato-soup sauce, but they might shut up if eating it meant getting to watch The Wizard of Oz or Ed Sullivan, making mealtime an easier battle to win than bedtime.

Maybe mom could even talk the kids into believing the bread crumbs on top were straw that had fallen off of the Scarecrow.

Or she could build a yellow (okay, golden-brown) brick road around the edge of the casserole...

Emphasis on the brown because the biscuits are bran, floating over a swamp of chopped up hard-cooked eggs and canned peas in white sauce. So nothing like the yellow brick road, really, but she tried, okay?

I also liked the reminders that this cookbook was before the wave of carbophobia hit mainstream America. This geometric casserole...

...uses a pastry crust on top of a Tuna Spaghetti casserole. I kind of wondered why a casserole that is supposed to serve eight only has six pastry wedges on top, but I guess it's so the smart asses like me who point out the redundancy of pastry on top of noodles can be deprived of that flaky delight and get a sad, crustless pile o' noodles.

And finally, the same pages with this recipe point out to those of us who may be inclined to feel sorry for the poor tuna:

The fishers only catch the dumb ones. The ones who paid attention in school learned about fishhooks and stayed away! (And the ones who played hooky to watch The Gumby Show instead are now in front of the TV once again, this time in casserole form. Stay in school, kids!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Top Chefs Reveal: One Little-Known Trick that Will Make All Your Dishes Company-Worthy

Maybe the homey-looking bowls of tapioca pudding on the cover garnished with miscellaneous bits of whatever happened to be in the kitchen will make you see this as an old-fashioned recipe booklet. The bright colors, bold star, and eye-catching title Miracles with Minute Tapioca (General Foods Corp., 1948) hint that the recipes inside are precursors of today's clickbait headlines.

Yes, minute tapioca is simply miraculous-- not just for creamy desserts (and I'm hoping to write a whole post on the dessert bowls adorning the front AND back cover someday), but for just about anything.

Do you need a miracle cheese soufflé for guests?

Yes, a miracle that "Puffs up high-- stays up"?

That one funny trick all the best homemakers know is, of course, throwing in a bit of Minute Tapioca.

Need a handsome dinner companion that will never sit down before the company?

One with "the oh-so-fluffy, moist, and wonderful texture that stays up for serving"?

One with an exciting chef's secret to be revealed only on page 19?

If you guessed the chef's secret was tapioca, you're catching on to the game quite well.

And if you didn't, well, I've got another miracle to tell you about.

What will make your meat loaf so juicy and tender that you'll shout "Hallelujah"?

And what will give it those weird little green flecks all throughout?

Okay, tapioca is the miracle ingredient for tender juiciness. Cooked peas are the weird green lumps.

Some miracles are a bit harder to pin down.

Apparently, Salmon Casserole is another tapioca miracle.

I'm kind of hazy as to what makes tapioca in a canned salmon casserole topped with baking powder biscuits so miraculous, but General Mills assumes I will figure it out.

So maybe this casserole won't get overexcited and pee on the guests?

Look, the point is TAPIOCA. It's the secret of all the top chefs in the General Mills Minute Tapioca kitchen.

So throw some in the chop suey too, for no apparent reason, and call it a day.

See-- this cookbook really was anticipating the internet! It's not just Chop Suey, it's #chopsuey!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Preview of a Hate-to-Cook Thanksgiving

It's no surprise that Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976) advises readers to attend a potluck Thanksgiving at someone else's house. Not hosting means not having to cook the turkey, and your contribution to dinner can be much smaller and easier. The best choice, as far as Bracken is concerned, is a non-pie dessert. (Dessert is almost certain to be good even if it's easy, and if it's not a pie, then nobody will compare it to the one mom or grandma used to make!) She wasn't psychic, so she didn't specifically point out that the recipe for Kahlua Cream could also help take the edge off of having to spend the day with relatives who were busy griping about the election of that lousy peanut farmer, but I think it's safe to infer that the buzz was a helpful side effect.

For those unlucky enough to have to make the turkey or lucky enough to get leftovers from somebody else's turkey, Bracken offers a couple of recipes to dress up whatever remains.

In the somewhat-adventurous-for-the-genre column, there's Sour Cream Turkey Curry.

It's exactly what it sounds like-- sour cream, curry powder, and turkey, with a little chicken broth and onion for flair. If you read the instructions before you start the recipe, you might even start the rice before the curry so you don't have to worry about the sour cream curdling while the rice cooks!

For those who prefer meals with a stereotypical Italian accent, there's Atsa My Turkey!

It's a mix of fettucini with turkey, wine, broth, milk, and plenty o' cheese! The lesson at the end of the chapter is apparently that leftover turkey tastes best with lots of milk fat. To be fair, the addition of cheese and/or cream is one of the easiest ways to make anything taste good, so Bracken scores again!

Whether you're looking forward to Thanksgiving or kind of dreading it, I hope your November is off to a good start! I'm looking forward to finally getting the veggie-based "turkey" roast out of my freezer that someone in my family picked out for Thanksgiving dinner last year, and then changed the plan. I could really use that extra space.... It's good to be thankful for the little things.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Candy, candy, candy, candy, candy

With the Halloween coming, it's time to talk candy! Or candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, as Garfield used to say.

Today we have the simply named Candy Cookbook (Favorite Recipes Press, 1966).

There's not a lot in a candy cookbook that looks like a train wreck. After all, it's just supposed to be pleasing little bites of things, so the candies today are more curiosities than monstrosities. (They're more Freaks than Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)

There is nothing scary about Calico Fudge, for example.

It's peanut butter and sugar! I'd be tempted to make some right now if I weren't afraid of any recipe that referenced "soft ball stage." I'm just confused as to what makes it calico. Usually, "calico" recipes are multicolored, and this one would be monochromatic beige. I read it expecting candied fruit and discovered it's just peanut butter.

I'd never heard of Oatmeal Fudge either.

And then I realized that pouring no-bake cookies into a pan and cutting them into squares (instead of simply dropping them on waxed paper) makes them into "fudge."

Potato candies seem mildly surprising if you haven't been through very many old cookbooks, but they're so common that they must have been pretty good (or at least a passable way to use up extra mashed potatoes).

Well, good if you liked coconut.

Wait! This one's more my speed:

Yay for more peanut butter!

There are a few candies that wouldn't be so easy to make anymore. Sure, you can still find star-shaped cereal if you look hard enough....

But I imagine Galaxies were way easier to make in the '60s when Sugar Stars were a thing.

Of course, some of the recipes found new uses for gelatin, but at least a candy cookbook can't even pretend these creations are salads.

Then again, I'm not so sure. Candy Strawberries are fruit shaped, and they do have nuts in them, so maybe Ettie Belle Robinson tried to pass them off as salad once in a while.

The final recipe combines the last two trends: a new use for gelatin PLUS a product you can't buy anymore.

Sorry, everybody. No more apple gelatin means no more authentic Appletts (to maybe try to pass off as very, very small salads. They had applesauce and nuts, after all!).

I hope these candies make your Halloween Eve (or whenever you actually read this) just a little bit weirder.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

It's the Great Salad, Charlie Brown!

Halloween is coming! If you really want to horrify your little trick-or-treaters, how about making them some Halloween-themed salads to fortify them before they terrorize the neighborhood in search of sugar?

The 1950 classic 300 Ways to Serve Eggs (edited by Ruth Berolzheimer) suggests Halloween Egg Salad.

It's not regular egg salad, with chopped hard-cooked eggs and bits of celery in mayo. The hard-cooked eggs are supposed to be manually shaped into pumpkin-ish shapes while they're still hot and then soaked in orange food coloring so they'll look like tiny pumpkins. They're even supposed to be painted with green coloring for the stripes on the sides and served in a watercress pumpkin patch. It's a pretty cute idea, though I'm not sure how enthusiastic the kids will be when they realize it's just a boiled egg on salad greens...

Body Building Dishes for Children (also from 1950 and edited by Berolzheimer) suggests a possibly more-acceptable salad: a Jack-o'-Lantern fruit salad.

I wish the book had a picture because an orange peel cut to look like a jack-o-lantern and filled with fruit salad (maybe containing the orange's own guts?) sounds pretty cute.

Or, if you're the fight-fire-with-fire school of thought, you could just forget the salad and send the kids out with a belly full of sugar that has at least some nutritional value from the fruit, you could make this offering from Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers Americana Cookery: An Illustrated Cookbook of Regional America's Traditional Recipes (1971).

I'm not sure what baked apples have to do with the headless horseman, but the name makes them sound Halloween-appropriate. Plus, the prune stuffing might mean you will have to cut trick-or-treating short! (And maybe you'll have to figure out how to clean shit out of a T-Rex costume, but Halloween is supposed to be scary, so that's seasonally appropriate.)

No matter what your jack-o-lanterns are made of, have a spooky Halloween!