Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Young Woman's Mission was to keep it short!

No, The Young Woman's Mission Cook Book (Springfield, Ohio, 1940), much like the young women who put it together, is not in great shape anymore. Aside from my unsuccessful attempt to remove the price sticker and the broken binding, you might notice the weird lumps and holes both above and under "Young" and above the comma after "Springfield." That's because whoever owned this book before I did had the odd habit of using straight pins to secure recipes cut from magazines onto the title page.

Of course, that means I got additional recipes, like this one lurking behind "Young":

It's an eggnog chiffon pie, proving that chiffon pies could be created for just about any occasion back when they were popular.

The cookbook itself often tends toward simple recipes, ones that could be featured in the five-ingredients-or-fewer cookbooks today:

For example, "Sausage and Oysters" is only slightly more complicated than the title suggests, also incorporating "a large spoonful of cornmeal." (I'm hoping that the oven should be turned on when the baking dish is set in it, and I imagine the dish should also be removed at some point, but Grace J. Johnson is not one to get bogged down with details.)

This recipe (in the "Luncheon Dishes" section) is slightly more complicated, calling for four ingredients:

Of course, one of them is radio cheese-- and I can't figure out what that is. Internet searches suggest I'm looking for a low-frequency FM station in New Zealand, but I'm pretty sure radio cheese was a type of actual cheese-- probably similar to cottage cheese, based on its being mixed with pineapple and Maraschino cherries. Who would consider this a suitable lunch entree is, of course, open to question, but apparently Catherine E. Hodge thought it was killer diller.

This soup might squeak in as a five ingredient recipe, if we don't count water, salt, or pepper:

The thing that really gets me is that this Mock Turtle Soup is the only version of the old-time favorite I've seen that doesn't use some kind of meat as the "turtle." I'm not sure sieved kidney beans, even with the traditional lemon, hard-cooked eggs, and sherry, would fool anyone into thinking a turtle had so much as dipped its toes in the water used to make the soup, but this was sure to go easy on pre-war budgets.

Well, I'm off to radio my cheese and mock some turtles! I hope your day is the cat's meow.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Check out the cheesecakes!

Are some people still sticking to their new year's resolutions to eat healthier? I'm not sure since I never resolve to do anything, even though I should probably resolve to clean the damn apartment once in a while so the day when I'm inevitably found crushed to death under a stack of books can be pushed back by a few weeks.

In any case, today's post is for those who try to keep their diet resolutions and also yearn for the food that makes the risk of being lifted out of one's house with a forklift after the heart attack seem like a worthwhile gamble: cheesecake. Of course, the recipes reduce the odds for both parts of that equation.

The most classic (and photogenic) diet cheesecake is probably from Better Homes and Gardens The Dieter's Cook Book (1982):

It looks pretty tasty, with the thick crust on the bottom, a generous creamy layer, the scattered crumbs on the top, and the orange twist.

The recipe was right in the middle of the page, so my pic won't be great unless I destroy the book:
Orange Chiffon Cheesecake doesn't sound bad at all-- a crust with real carbs, sugar, and butter, a filling with ricotta cheese and orange liqueur.... I'm not sure how cheesecake-y it will taste, though, with just a third of a cup of ricotta puffed up with dessert topping and beaten egg whites.

An easier and more prosaic confection is on offer in Lean Cuisine: Delicious Recipes for the Healthy Stay-Slender Life (Barbara Gibbons and the editors of Consumer Guide, 1979):

Blender Chocolate "Cream Cheese" Pie offers the usual tricks: unflavored gelatin, skim milk, and low-fat cottage cheese. The thing that sets this version apart is that it is flavored with a package of instant chocolate pudding mix. I'm a little intrigued, but I can't imagine a single mix will really be enough to flavor all that filling.

The prize for most unusual cheesecake should go to Tofu Goes West (Gary Landgrebe, 1978):

I was surprised that Tofu Cheesecake actually had some real cream cheese in it too. I assumed it would be all tofu. (I did have an all-tofu cheesecake once, back when I was in college and taking home ec courses before I changed majors. We had to make and try a chocolate-vanilla marbled tofu cheesecake in the lab portion of class, and that thing was disgusting! I don't know whether the recipe was that bad, though, because the time to prepare the cake was almost the entire lab time, so we had to eat the thing piping hot! I'm not sure any cheesecake would taste great hot, but hot tofu cheesecake tasted like molten rubber.)

The funniest picture award goes to the cheesecake in A Year of Diet Desserts (Joan Bingham, 1987):

Is it just me, or does it look like a round coffeecake is about to purchase a wig it will really, really regret?

Despite the shaggy crumbs, this is not a coffeecake but a cheesecake:

Luscious Lemon Cheesecake goes through all the motions-- the unflavored gelatin, the cottage cheese, the whipped egg whites. At least this has enough lemon and honey in it that it will probably have some flavor.

That can't be said about our last exhibit. It's no real surprise that the prize for most pathetic diet cheesecake goes to Weight Watchers International Cookbook (Jean Nidetch, 1977):

The unflavored gelatin and cottage cheese are fortified with that WW favorite, nonfat dry milk, then flavored only with chocolate extract, instant coffee, and artificial sweetener. Want crust? Too bad! At least this is a small recipe, only serving two, and who would be tempted to eat both servings at once?

I hope you enjoyed this collection of "cheesecakes" to amaze and terrify! Now go eat something worth its weight in calories.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stuff Your Celery Hole!

New Year's Resolutions are no reason to cancel that party-- at least, that't the thinking in Low Calorie Menus for Entertaining (Elaine Ross, 1970). (Never mind that a lot of people WANT parties as an excuse to forget about their resolutions....)

Since the cover seems to suggest it's fine to throw a live chicken onto a scale with a precariously balanced lit candle, though, I'm not sure how much I trust Ross's judgment. That chicken is going to lunge for the parfait and then the whole house will be on fire.

Honestly, a lot of the recipes aren't that terrible-- probably because a big part of the calorie-cutting strategy is to serve teeny portions:

Glorified French Loaf doesn't sound too bad-- French bread stuffed with meat and seasonings, then sliced and sauteed in butter. The trick is that the two five-inch lengths of French bread are supposed to serve SIX people. Trying to share a foot-long sub with your five closest friends at the local Subway would actually be more generous. 

Love baked potatoes? Well, rejoice or despair at the thought of these:

Yay! You get a baked potato! But maybe the sight of one lonely small new potato (even moderately-sized new potatoes are not allowed!) with a whole teaspoon of sour cream will be such a reminder of what you're missing that you would be happier without one. 

It's not all miniatures of beloved favorites, though. The book has plenty of recipes that clearly fall in the "only a dieter would eat this" camp, like this creative classic:

Celery-Stuffed Celery! For the days when your celery just isn't celery-y enough for you! Fill it with more of the stringy stuff, along with some cottage cheese and seasoned salt because a spoonful of cottage cheese makes the diet food go down. (At least, in theory.)

And then, of course, there are the dishes that will promote weight loss because I can't imagine anyone wanting to eat them in the first place....

Maybe I'm not the best measure since I hate cantaloupe anyway, but has anyone ever really craved a baked cantaloupe half filled with onion, beef, rice, cinnamon, currants and pine nuts? And if so, could we really find SIX such people and get them all to come to the same party? (At least the dinner conversation would be different from the usual blather about the weather. "So, what kind of early trauma led you to become the kind of person who will happily eat a cantaloupe dolma? And why are you so happy with the celery-stuffed celery?" "So you fed nothing but wallpaper paste as a child, and anything looks good now? How interesting.")

At least the book is very optimistic, imagining that anyone who consistently serves this stuff will always have at least five friends willing to come to the party. Here's hoping out new year will have some happy surprises that aren't baked into a cantaloupe shell.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Draw the shades and grab the Tots!

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I confessed my secret love of what my family used to call Tater Tot Casserole (and what Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks euphemistically titled Vegetable Casserole)? Now I'm going to tell you my secret update of the recipe-- the healthy-ish version that I sneakily make when no one else is around to judge.

First, though, an overview of the variations. The one I posted earlier:

Browned hamburger, mixed vegetables, and creamy soup with dry onion soup mix, all topped with Tater Tots, this is a pretty classic version. (At least, I think it's closest to what I remember eating at potlucks.)

The simplest one I found was Quick Casserole in Family Favorites (St. John's Lutheran Church in Amlin, Ohio, 1976):

Here, the meat isn't even cooked first! The raw slab is just spread with cream of chicken soup and topped with the Tots. This is the super-basic (and I imagine super-greasy) version, but surely the easiest too. 

The Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers series features a version called Beef and Tater Casserole in the "Life-Saver" Cookbook (1976):

At least the beef is browned again, but the filling is just two kinds of cream soup topped with the iconic Tots.

I wanted my own version to serve one (because nobody else is going to eat it!) and healthier-- no canned cream of anything soup, more veggies, and no meat (since I'm mostly vegetarian). So here's my Updated Tater Tot Casserole:


1/2 c. milk (I use unsweetened original almond milk, but I imagine soy or dairy would be fine too.)
3/4 c. or so of cauliflower pieces (more if they're cut big or you like sauce to be thick; less if they're chopped finely or you like it thin)
1/4 tsp. salt
any seasonings you like, to taste (I used some rosemary, thyme, and minced onion flakes)

Put all the ingredients together in a tiny pan and boil them until the cauliflower is fall-apart soft, at least 15 minutes. Puree until smooth. (I used an immersion blender.)

While sauce is cooking, prepare filling:

1 meat-style veggie burger, crumbled (I used a Quorn burger, but Boca American Classic or a Morningstar Farms Griller would be fine too. Or use a quarter pound of meat if that's your thing.)

about a cup and a half (whatever amount looks right for your individual casserole dish) of veggies, your choice (I used mushrooms since this usually has cream of mushroom soup, plus some celery and green peppers I wanted to use up, plus some frozen green beans because that's what I had)

seasonings to taste (I threw in some pepper, a little smoked salt, rosemary, thyme, and minced onion flakes)

Saute the burger, veggies, and seasonings together in a small skillet while the sauce cooks. Try to get them a little brown for flavor.

Once the sauce is ready, pour it into the skillet and stir to coat everything. 

Pour the whole mess into an individual casserole dish. Top with as many Tater Tots as you can justify. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until the Tots are brown. Let cool for five minutes before eating it in a darkened room with the shades drawn.... Well, unless you want to burn your mouth and/or let the world know that you enjoy eating this kind of thing. ;-)

At least it's better than Smashed Tots a la Pocket Lint.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Still life with citrus peel roses and a hot dog mess

Today we have the final installment of the series of Home Cooking recipes from the thrift store baggie.

Women's Circle Home Cooking from January 1977 certainly looks fancy, with its crown roast encircled by parsley and orange peel roses-- so you know those are not the recipes I'm going to show you! My picks don't exactly cry out for taper candles in gold holders and a weird orange terrarium-style centerpiece.

Even though the cover features the very seasonally-appropriate citrus, the magazine itself has an extended section on cider. Maybe one of the editors thought she was working on the October issue? Or maybe, given the wintry theme of a few of the recipes, she was trying to extend cider season well into the new year. Still trying to use up leftover Christmas ham?

Why not serve it with hard cooked eggs, celery, and whipped cream in jiggly little cider cups-- well, besides the obvious reason that it sounds like a lot of work for something that will end up being disgusting anyway?

Or what if you miss the holiday cheer of eggnog and can't quite justify breaking out the decadent cream, freshly-grated nutmeg, and rum or bourbon or whatever booze helps make the holidays more bearable? Well, there's always this:

Cider Eggnog! The New Year's way to feel virtuous about getting salmonella, without any of the cheer of actual eggnog.

New Year's is a time for parties, so there is a nice spread about feeding a crowd:

There's nothing disgusting in here. Who doesn't love noodles or crackers or turnovers? The thing that kills me is that so much of the "cooking for a crowd" section is things that I would never consider cooking for a crowd in the first place. I thought it would be recipes for enormous casseroles or side dishes, but we get recipes for homemade noodles and crackers! I don't think I'm alone in saying that if I had to feed a crowd, I'd buy a few damn bags of egg noodles. I wouldn't worry about making fresh ones. Same thing with chips/ crackers. Why spend hours on homemade Crackle Thins when a few boxes of Ritz and a bag or two of Fritos would make the crowd at least as happy?

We all know that the new year is a busy time, what with getting back to work and school, so my favorite recipe comes from the "Instant Cooking for People on the Go" section:

(Please note that I do not advocate cooking while diving, skiing, or shooting, although it might be OK while fishing if it's a slow day...)

If you're in a real hurry, spend a half hour or so to make some Frankfurters a la Cling!

No, they're not hot dogs with really bad static cling brought on by the cold, dry January conditions. They're wieners cooked in, essentially, peach pie filling, because who hasn't had a juicy slice of peach pie and thought, "You know, the only thing that could possibly make this better would be to get rid of the buttery, golden crust and pack this puppy full of processed meat!"?

The nice thing about this casserole is its wide range of serving sizes, feeding as many as 12 diners-- and maybe even more, depending on just how averse to this hot dog mess the eaters are.

I hope your new year is going well enough so far. If not, just make Minced Ham in Cider Cups or Frankfurters a la Cling, and whatever else happens will look good by comparison!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Poppy's shiny new year!

Now that I'm done with Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook, I wanted to pick a new book to go through in 2017. I'll admit, the book I chose is cheating just a little because it's not exactly a cookbook!

401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny von Hagen, 1971) is primarily a book dedicated to the proposition that parties would be far more festive if hosts would simply wrap every square inch of their homes in aluminum foil beforehand. (Alcoa, in case you're wondering, is the shortened name for Aluminum Company of America, It's all making sense now, isn't it?)

If you really need a justification for a foil-shilling book as my year's pick:
1. There are a few actual recipes in here, so hey, it's a cookbook.
2. The foil creations are so weird that I just couldn't keep this to myself.
3. This is the same size and has the same spiral binding as many of the smaller Betty Crocker offerings (like Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar), so it's an honorary cookbook.

Since the first entry is for New Year's celebrations, I'm going to post it a day early so you'll have time to coat your lampshades in aluminum foil before midnight if the spirit moves you.

Here is what an Alcoa New Year's party should look like:

With all the curling ribbon dangling down in the foreground, it's a bit hard to see just how much of this spread is covered with foil, but it's everywhere. At least you can see the foil-y clocks pinned to the front of each table, and maybe you will eventually realize that the lampshades and even some of the serving platters have a weird, crinkly metallic sheen.

If you want to give a shiny twist to the old cliche of the drunk wearing the lampshade by the end of the party, here are the instructions for making your new chapeau (or vase, since they're pretty much the same thing, according to the directions):

Just mold sheets of heavy-duty foil over a bucket and trim it to make petals!

For the vase, "Arrange flowers in any container that will fit into foil mold, add bare twigs to hold pretzels."

Yep. Apparently for a New Year's party, besides foil lampshades, one also needs foil vases full of flowers and pretzels on sticks, like so:

I mean, every time I walk by a flower arrangement, I think about how much better it would be if I could also eat pretzels that had been suspended on sticks above it. Don't you?

A few ideas are actually kind of cute, like this little guy:

Of course you need a lemon piglet for good luck in the New Year! This decoration is a real anomaly too, as it's not got much aluminum in it-- just the curly little tail!

And yes, as promised, there are some actual recipes. The lemon piglet is perched next to some Stuffed Tomatoes:

I'll admit, I'm not a fan of any mayonnaise-based salads, so this hybrid of pea and egg salads crammed into raw tomatoes leaves me-- like the salad-- cold. Your mileage may vary.

As far as I'm concerned, the scariest-looking thing on the menu is under the pretzel-flower arrangement on the bottom left of the party picture:

The poor fish looks mortified to have woken up on a foil platter mounded with lemons and leaf lettuce, and fronted by some kind of little appetizer-type things convinced that they are really tiki cocktails. Is there any way to slide off of the platter and into the nearest body of water without drawing too much attention?

There's not much chance of getting very far if one's guts are ripped out and replaced with seasonings and sliced onion, though.

Even though the last recipe I'm listing probably tastes fine, the name is enough to make me write a new song (to the tune of "Brick House"):

Punch from a fish.... House! It's mighty briny. Spittin' it all back out! From a fish.... House!

And on that note I suspect that like 2016, I've worn out my welcome.... Happy New Year! And get ready to hear from Alcoa all through 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Super-Stealth Health Food and Top Secret Ingredients

I'm a sucker for '70s community cookbooks with pictures of very '70s kitchens on their covers.

That led me to the creatively-titled Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks (by the Ladies' Prayer Band in Bonds Chapel Church, Waverly, Ohio, 1976/77).

All that brick, the shiny brown linoleum with a rusty shag rug off to one side, the dark wood and plaid border wallpaper, the way the harvest gold counters match the chicken railed in by the stove vent... I just love this kitchen (and wish I could check out the cookbooks on the built-in desk)!

The cover hints at the sunny outlook of the cooks who helped put this compilation together. They are always willing to look at the bright side to the extent that they make dietary excesses seem perfectly reasonable. That salty, greasy, deplorable mess of a casserole that I adored as a kid (and still occasionally try to more healthily recreate today, on evenings when I'm on my own for dinner so no one else will know how much I still crave it)? The good people of Waverly know it as this:

This isn't Tater Tot Casserole, as it was known in my house-- even though it covers the same slick of creamy, salty soups and burger with the same fleet of golden-brown Tater Tots. No, this is healthy because it's Vegetable Casserole. There's a whole bag of mixed veggies inside, so it's clearly good for you.

I also learned, tragically too late, that the "dessert" my mother-in-law makes every year for Christmas-- the one I love so much that she always tucks away an extra square or two to send home with me-- is not actually a dessert at all:

If I'd only known this confection consisting of layers of buttery nuts, cream cheese, sugar, pudding, and Cool Whip was really a SALAD-- well, then I could have felt pretty self-righteous about eating it-- maybe even had a double serving to double the healthfulness.

The good people of Waverly aren't all such optimists, though. A surprising number of cooks seemed pretty reluctant to give up their secrets, considering they were volunteering to send recipes to a cookbook. Some omissions are kind of blatant:

With so much white space in the recipe, the 1/2 c. ______ stands out above the cup of sugar. (I'm pretty sure the omitted ingredient is butter, based on the other, similar recipes around it.)

Some omissions are really sneaky:

All looks in order (except for using the regional term "mangos" to mean "green peppers") until we get to the very last line, where careful readers learn we can substitute 1 c. _____ for 1 c. meat.

Dee Steward doubled down on refusing to name that secret ingredient:

This recipe for Lazarus (a department store chain bought out by Macy's that once had restaurants in its Columbus, Ohio, location) Mexican Beef Sandwiches helpfully gives recipes for large and small batches. The third ingredient is a mystery, though. For a large batch, use 1/3 c., and for a smaller batch, use only 1/4 c. A third of a cup or a quarter of a cup of what are apparently up to the cook's discretion, as the detailed instructions for mixing (Combine all ingredients (except bacon)) don't provide much in the way of help.

As always, a few recipes are just plain weird. I'll end with something a little different:

Something Different in Fried Chicken browns the bird before coating it in sour cream, brown sugar, and bacon bits and throwing it in the oven. Never mind that it appears not to really be fried (unless we count the pan-browning)-- what will it be like coated with sweet brown sugar and those bits of artificial smoke flavored gravel known as bacon bits? Maybe "different" is the kindest description one could hope for....

Have a great Wednesday! I'll spend it wishing I still had one last piece of "salad" to finish off...