Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Appy New Year!

My favorite New Year's tradition is one I'm pretty sure my grandma made up: eat a little dish of ice cream at midnight so the new year will be sweet. Ideally, it caps off an evening of doing something fun (like watching The Poseidon Adventure or leafing through some old cookbooks) rather than what I am usually doing around midnight (checking my email or grading those last few papers).

A lot of people insist on actually being social and having parties, and from what I understand, those parties involve a lot of appetizers. For all you social butterflies, today I have some appetizers and hors d'oeuvres from House & Garden's New Cook Book (1977):

I love the cover with all the food stacked on white pillars. The crown roast is the star, but it is oddly mirrored by the display of uncooked spaghetti on the pillar just below. There's also a roast with pineapple, a cooked lobster eyeing the bowl of rice, an eggplant leaning down to whisper something to the cauliflower, a layered fruit salad in a lidded bowl that reminds me of a terrarium, and a bowlful of iceberg lettuce topped with the requisite pink tomatoes, cucumber slices, and a heap of black olives.

As far as I can tell, the only theme is "Look! Here's some food on white pillars."

So what do the editors of House & Garden recommend as party nibbles?

Well, if you're STILL trying to get rid of that Christmas ham, they have a couple of ideas:

Mince it, mix it with butter, cracker crumbs, Swiss cheese, sour cream, caraway seeds, and eggs, bake that mixture, and serve it in little squares with cocktails or salads. Damn sat fat and let everyone worry about it in the new year!


Grind ham up, mix with toasted bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs, onion, and parsley, mold into balls, and deep fry!

You know I would go with the latter because there are no caraway seeds (plus: deep frying!).

I'm a sucker for recipes that can double as craft projects, so you know I'm all in on this one:

Cheese Pineapple melds a crazy amount of cheese (Cheddar, Roquefort, cream, Swiss,  and Monterey jack) with a few seasonings, molds them into a pineapple shape, and covers the whole thing with paprika and a spoon-carved "pineapple skin" pattern. If that's not enough, it also calls for cutting the top off a fresh pineapple and inserting it into the top of the cheese ball to complete the illusion! I love the thought of spending an afternoon building this, but then I'd need guests to actually eat the thing.... 

A select few recipes are written in a cartoon format:

There isn't much that sounds less appealing to me than eating cold canned beets slathered in a mustard dressing, but the cartoon is ALMOST enough to make it seem appealing. I love that the marinating step is illustrated by a woman soaking in a tub, and that they even throw a horse in at the end since that image is always called up by the word "hors d'oeuvre" anyway. The cartoons are a fun way to present little recipes with a sense of humor.

Lastly, the recipe with the biggest gap between my hope upon seeing its title and disappointment at its actual ingredients:

I was so excited to see empanada, mainly because my city used to have a little vegan restaurant that served the best dessert empanadas ever. They were flaky and crisp on the outside and stuffed with whatever fruit was in season. My favorite was the berries and cream, filled with bright raspberries and a sweet cashew "cream." Those thoughts flooded my head when I saw "empanada," and the memory is probably all the sweeter because I know I can't have those treats anymore.

This empanada filling, though, is nothing like the version in my memory. Filled with raisins, onions, garlic, minced beef, and olives, this is the sweet/savory/briny combo that I'm sure appeals to some of you but leaves me whimpering and trying to get back into the safe space with my dessert empanadas.

No matter what your tastes may be, have a happy (or at least tolerable) new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hamming it up!

I am lucky enough to have leftover lasagna in my fridge. I love it-- layers of curly noodles, gooey cheese, the only marinara I actually like (Newman's Own Sockarooni-- yep, I'm the type of jerk who prefers commercially bottled stuff to even homemade versions)... Yum!

I know a lot of people have leftover ham in the wake of Christmas, though, so today's post is dedicated to all those smoky, salty slabs.

If you are the type of person who can't wait to use up leftovers, Cooking with Soup (Campbell Kitchens, 1976) has an interesting option that sounds sort of breakfast/ brunch-y:

Ham and Mushroom Stuffed Pancakes will get the day off to a memorable start. Top thin pancakes with slices of boiled ham and some canned mushrooms, then serve with a condensed cream of celery soup-based sauce. Voila! A meal sure to inspire the relatives to head home earlier than they had originally planned.

If you'd rather go the appetizer route and you have a serious soft spot for that most mid-20th-century of treats, the deviled egg, The Ground Meat Cookbook (Melanie de Proft, 1955) recommends this:

Grind up your ham and use it to stuff eggs. Between the pinkish-red ham/ paprika filling and the greens (at least I assume the scribble on the plate with the eggs is meant to represent greens-- unless the deviled eggs are supposed to be served on a bed of ramen) on the serving platter, the leftovers could still look rather festive.

If you've always wanted ham as a condiment, but don't like it mixed with mayo, The American Woman Cookbook (edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, 1942) has you covered:

Mix ground-up ham into butter and hard-cooked egg yolks and slather it on everything that could be hammier. Have a ham buttered bagel! Biscuits with ham butter and honey! A ham butter and jelly sandwich!

If you want to go full-on retro, though, you know I have to go with this one (also from The American Woman Cookbook):

Minced Ham in Cider Cups-- because there's always room for gelatinized cider rings filled with ham, eggs, and celery! What a great way to say goodbye to Christmas. You'll be so busy trying to distance yourself from the memory of eating this that you won't have time for the holidays-are-over blues.

Happy holiday weekend! I hope you have some new toys to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cookier cookies and creepy dolls

McCall's Cookie Collection (1965) promises a lot of cookies:

Cookies with character! (They won't steal your silverware when you're asleep.)

Cookies that keep! (Keep what? I hope they keep pet squares of chocolate. If they keep pet ants, I'd throw them out....)

Cookies in a hurry! (I wonder where they have to go. If it's to the meeting with HR, they shouldn't rush too much. It's usually just a pointless PowerPoint.)

Cookies that carry and cookies that pack! (I'm really hoping this is not code for armed cookies. I don't want cookies trying to shoot me.)

Cookies that capture the imagination! (They've already succeeded....)

Cookies that Grandma never made! (I'll bet she had her reasons.)

Even "Cookier Cookies for Goodier Giving"! (Grammatically challenged cookies, apparently.)

Since we might need some extra goodies to give, what are the "cookier cookies"?

Apparently, they are very brown cookies. We have a basket full of very brown stars, and a pitcher full of cartoonishly- outlined  shapes.

Some of the outlined cookies hang on the pine garland above the pitcher so we can admire at them. I get the reindeer hanging on the pine garland. The flower may be pushing it a bit, but maybe it's a poinsettia? I'm at a loss as to how a rooster shitting a football is Christmas-themed, but the '60s were a crazy time.

The "cookier cookies" in this case are Moravian Spice Cookies and Cinnamon Stars:

Moravian Spice Cookies live up to the name, filled with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and molasses.

The Cinnamon Stars, unsurprisingly, pack some cinnamon.

I'm not sure what makes these cookies "cookier," but I found another spicy holiday cookie recipe that makes the holidays just a little bit creepier.

Betsy McCall's Ginger Cut-Out Cookies have a secret ingredient besides the ginger, nutmeg, and molasses. The little italicized references to photos a-e give you a hint about the real break-out star: Betsy McCall herself.

Betsy McCall is a dead-eyed doll who likes to shame the brown sugar and butter by making them watch as she mixes up a dough that calls for shortening and granulated sugar. "You'll never be good enough for my cookies," she whispers at them as she mixes.

Then she rolls out the dough as she gazes off into the distance, fondly remembering the time that she just used the rolling pin to bash the hell out of the dough until mommy burst into tears and insisted that she roll it out "right." She'll do it right this time, but only because mommy is watching.

Still forcing the brown sugar and butter to watch, Betsy cuts the dough into long, skinny shapes that will burn easily. She can hear it screaming as she cuts.

Since she's obviously too short to reach the oven handle, Betsy uses her telekinetic powers to force the cookies into the hot oven. She cackles with glee as they react to the scorching heat.

Finally, she covers her trophies with glue so they will stay with her forever. Enormous, sloppy Christmas trees, weirdly stretched Halloween cats, it's all the same to Betsy. She just knows that her creations will serve her in this life and the next....

Happy holidays! Now I'm going to do some baking WITHOUT Betsy's help.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sweet overload!

In my quest for more holiday recipes to post, I've been getting to know Aunt Susie.

Aunt Susie is a complete stranger. She put together a Ziploc full of old recipes torn out of anything that carried recipes (from the '60s to the '90s, as far as I can tell). Then somebody got rid of it and I picked up from an antique mall. I know Aunt Susie's name because she had a a niece whose thank you card for a 1980s graduation gift accidentally got left in the collection. She also had a SERIOUS sweet tooth (as chronicled in sweetened condensed milk and cookie posts in the past few weeks).

I learned two more things when I hit this "Hearty Holidays" spread Aunt Susie saved from the December 11, 1976 TV Guide:

1. TV Guide ran recipes! My family never got the guide, so I didn't know that. The person who puts up with (and often aids and abets) my cookbook obsession may now have to hide his vintage TV Guides if he doesn't want me riffling through them.

2. Neither TV Guide nor Aunt Susie saw an upper limit to the acceptable level of sweetness in a holiday meal. The recommended menu:

Start out with a ham glazed with maple syrup and brown sugar.

To be health-conscious, add a vegetable side: sweet potatoes glazed in the same syrup/ sugar sludge.

Of course, we need fruit too-- so spicy fruitcake will fit the bill. (Don't want it to seem too plain, though. It is Christmas, after all, so sweeten up those candied fruits with some marzipan decorations.)

All that sweetness is bound to work up a thirst. Wash dinner down with some creamy eggnog!

This spread must have looked good to Aunt Susie if she saved the recipes. I can't think too hard about it, or I will get the dry heaves....

I don't want to be too hard on Aunt Susie, though. The only thing she ever did to me was tempt me to buy this recipe collection. Aunt Susie and I can both agree on this recipe from a 1974 Betty Crocker mail-away offer:

Rich, moist holiday bars packed full of almonds! I would use butter for the margarine (and leave the festive-looking bars topped with red candied cherries and green candied pineapple for you so I could gobble down the ones topped with bitter chocolate), but otherwise, this looks pretty awesome! It's especially cool how one recipe can be made into multiple treats for varying tastes.

Enjoy your last weekend before Christmas, and don't overdose on sweets just yet.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hallmark for the holidays

I don't know the age of today's booklet, but it's so cute I had to share:

"The Hallmark Book of Holiday Recipes" packs its 20 pages with drawings by Antoine Richard Crul. (I love the "crazy holly" on the cover-- with its single holly leaf paired with evergreen sprigs and ornament "berries" of varying sizes and colors.)

This booklet lists several main dishes, each paired with a complementary stuffing or side. I imagine a lot of people would like this one for Christmas:

Considering the popularity of Chinese food on Christmas, an orange duck seems like the perfect centerpiece-- as long as it's not smiling at anyone.

As usual, though, the whole sweet-and-savory bit is lost on me. I love traditional stuffing with celery and poultry seasoning. I can imagine a good orange-flavored bread pudding. Try slamming the two together, and I can't get past the idea of oranges with poultry seasoning...

For families that love Thanksgiving, there is always the turkey option:

The name "Connoisseur Stuffing" makes me wonder whether turkeys are known for their excellent taste, or whether this is just a sneaky way of making fun of any connoisseurs one might invite to the holiday table.

Okay, I know the title is meant to suggest that people with refined taste will like the stuffing, but it looks pretty standard to me-- bread, celery, onions, poultry seasoning, parsley, mushrooms. Maybe connoisseurs are crazy for turkey liver, as that seems like the most unusual addition?

Based on the number of molded salads, I'd guess this is probably from the '60s or early '70s. Of course there are plenty that look just fine-- fruity gelatin, pineapple, cranberries, and/or strawberries, sour cream, etc. You know I'll give you the aspic, then, since there is not really a huge market for tomato-flavored gelatin anymore:

Tomato juice! Chopped onion and celery leaves! Brown sugar! Bay leaves and cloves! Sliced green olives! Why go for the dessert-y salads when you could have this instead?

Those sweet salads might be a better bet for dessert than the actual desserts anyway.... While this booklet doesn't include the perennially-hated fruitcake... transforms that cake into an even stickier, more concentrated pie form. We all knew the real problem with the original fruitcake was that it was nowhere near dense enough.

Fruitcake isn't the only traditional sweet that gets a makeover, though:

The Angel's Halo Cake answers that ancient theological question: What do angels do with their halos? We now know that halos are great for storing mincemeat! Who knew?

I wonder if mincemeat is standard, or if angels get to pick their halo filling. I think Reese's peanut butter cups would be the better way to go-- unless there's no refrigeration in halos. I wouldn't want melted peanut butter and chocolate in my hair.

There's something to think about this week: What food makes the best halo filling?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Southern Compost

I'm (mostly) done grading, so this weekend we will slow down and ogle some southern Christmas recipes. Let's start off with a pretty little appetizer tray from Southern Living's The Holiday Cookbook (1971):

The tidbits are so festive, what with the green peppers and cucumbers and bright red tomatoes (Where did they find ones that weren't a mealy pink this time of year?), all topped jauntily with black olives. Even the boring celery gets pressed into a tree-ish shape!

And what's in that creamy-looking filling?

There are actually three fillings. They all start with cream cheese, olives, hot sauce, and lemon juice. Then one gets tomato paste, one gets mashed avocado, and one gets... candied cherries, sugared ginger, and chopped nuts? I can wrap my head around the first two, but candied cherries and ginger with olives and hot sauce? And that's the one that gets stuffed into the celery? If you serve these at a Christmas Eve party, I'm guessing that the celery/olive/cherry/ginger thingies will be left for Santa. Maybe if you're lucky he'll leave Charlie in the Box from the Island of Misfit Toys. That guy will eat anything.

If you're not lucky, well... when you pull a spat-out glob of partially-chewed celery out of your stocking, you'll wish he'd gone for the coal instead.

Maybe you should just relax with a cocktail-- a nice, Christmas-in-the-South red velvet cocktail:

Then maybe it will be time for your own spit-take. Okay, this drink doesn't really sound bad-- kind of a non-alcoholic variation of a Bloody Mary-- but when I hear "red velvet," I am thinking of something dessert-y-- not tomato juice infused with celery and onion!

If you can pull it off, maybe you can save the day with this very-impressive dessert suggestion:

Now that is a proper capper to a crazy day-- set a stack of ice-cream-stuffed cream puffs on fire! It just might be enough to make everyone forget about the celery and "red velvet" debacles.

Have a crazy-good weekend!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The fine line between sweet and surreal

You know the relative who seems perfectly sweet-- feeds stray cats, takes in the neighbors' mail when they're on vacation, makes your favorite no-bake cookies if you might stop by-- who can suddenly veer into surreal territory? A visit is fine until suddenly you're inching closer and closer to the door, agreeing it makes perfect sense that fairies keep watch over her slippers so she won't lose them.

"'Do-it-together' Butter Cookies" from Pillsbury (undated, but it contains a cookie cutter offer that expired in November 1965) makes me think of that relative. The cover looks sweet enough:

Pretty little cookies party with slightly lopsided figures. (I love the bearded tiger ready to topple into the windmill...) The "Do-it-together" title suggests some kind of activities with the kids, and the figures are a hint as to what it might be.

Part of this booklet's raison d'etre is to pimp the modeling mixture recipe as a way to sell more flour while promising a crafty afternoon.

Full disclosure: I LOVED playing with this stuff when I was little-- and even when I was not-so-little. My first Christmas tree as an adult was mostly covered with painted cutout modeling mixture ornaments because that's what I could afford.

Pillsbury is so sold on the modeling mixture, though, that things go a bit off the rails. Need a holiday gift box or cookie jar?

Pillsbury suggests covering a cereal box or nut canister with modeling mixture. Okay, maybe you could get away with a nut-canister cookie jar, but even the model gift box, festively tied with a red ribbon, looks like it would weigh twice as much as whatever gift gets crammed inside and like it would fall apart the second the recipient tried to open it.

Some scenes in the booklet straddle the line between sweet and demented:

I think this is supposed to be a holiday scene, judging from the modeling mixture elves (even though one is apparently drunk and has crawled away to sleep it off next to the cookie tray), the gingerbread-looking people, staring in quiet awe at the ceiling, and the French angels, melting majestically into the harvest-gold table. I have no holiday-related explanation for Humpty Dumpty waving creepily from his brick wall, though, so I could be wrong.

The "Funny Cookie Men" are more cute than frightening...

...but only barely. The drawing on the recipe is surprisingly accurate to the photo above, with its wonky cookies vacantly staring up at the reader. (Well, the second from the left looks like he's trying not to tell you that you forgot to put on your deodorant today, but otherwise they're pretty blank.)

The angels seem a bit scarier, composed of dirty cobwebs and in various stages of melting down to little brown puddles:

The recipe doesn't sound bad, but it is a lot of work for cookies that are as likely to inspire gasps of horror as gasps of delight.

If that picture wasn't enough, you know you're in surreal territory when you get to the droopy Santa:

One whose reindeer may have had really bad diarrhea right before he walked through their stalls, judging by the look of his boots. (At least I hope they're boots!) The modeling mixture can even make lumpy trees to hang out in the background, predatory trees that do not feel their lives are complete until they have impaled cookies on their spines and left them to hang there as a warning to the rest of the cookie herd.

What a fun afternoon sad Santa and the nightmare trees will have, helping with such kid-pleasing recipes as this:

Kids love fruit cake, right, with all the raisins and prunes and coffee?

Wait a minute! Is Santa sad because his reindeer got into these cookies? That could explain the boots. It's all starting to make sense....

Happy Wednesday! May yours be mostly sweet with just the right touch of crazy!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Not baking my caraway....

The first weekend in December.... I'd like to spend it trying out a new cookie recipe-- something I might give as a gift-- or maybe baking up a batch of cupcakes to warm up the apartment and surprise the person who not only doesn't mind but actively aids and abets my amassing 2.7 metric tons of cook-bookage.

That's not what I'm doing, though. I'm grading papers. Hooray for endless streams of essays. To encourage myself to stay on task, I've found cookie and cupcake recipes that will not in any way distract me from my work.

If you like old-world cooking, something that relies on earthy spices and citrus rind for its pop, you may want to try these old-fashioned treats from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book (1936) for your holiday goody trays:

If you're like me and caraway seeds taste like despised black jellybeans that have been rolled around in the dirt and then carelessly tossed into something that could otherwise have been edible, then these recipes should inspire you to get back to work! Who needs a weekend baking spree anyway?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means: "Celebrity" edition

This week is probably a bit of a let-down, coming off of a nice, long weekend and plopping back into the routine of another work week for a while until the mad rush of the holidays. That's why I'm spicing it up with a bit of celebrity excitement:

It's the Ohio Celebrity Cookbook (American Cancer Society, Ohio Division, 1978).

They did not skimp on celebrities, either, as there are celebrities from all 88 Ohio counties! I didn't know there were so many celebrities in Ohio, much less that they were so equitably distributed by county, but I hope you don't mind my ignorance. (You should be used to it by now!)

To make up for the immediate put-down, I will concede that Ohio celebrities really know how to do up some proper pigs in a blanket:

These pigs in blankets are not just sausages cozily wrapped in biscuit blankets, but also filled with cheese and coated with crushed potato chips! The only way to make this any more stick-to-your-ribs- and-every-other-inch-of-your-body Midwestern would be to thin down a can of cream of mushroom soup with a bit of milk and serve it on the side as a gravy/ dipping sauce. (As for our "celebrity," apparently working at the newspaper is enough to make Mary Krohme qualify.)

Wrapping things in other things is a big trend in this cookbook. Another recipe I loved:

Easy Spinach Souffle Crepes ask cooks to partially defrost a frozen spinach souffle and "cut into 6-finger-shaped slices" to serve as crepe filling. I love the mix of actual cooking (make your own crepes-- with no explanation of how to make them other than to mix up the batter in a blender and then let it stand for an hour! The batter has magically transformed into crepes once the souffle gets chopped up) and assembling of pre-made parts (frozen souffle filling and melted Cheese Whiz topping). Mrs. Gene R. Lindley's celebrity has escaped me (Google found a father of a soccer star Gene Lindley and a Florida sex offender Gene Lindley, but I doubt either is the Preble County "celebrity"), but her practicality comes through.

Bonus Ohio fact: The Miami in Florida and the Oxford in England are both way more popular than the ones in Ohio.

Nothing quite captures the excitement of life in '70s Ohio like this photo of the Preble County Pork Festival, though:

Paunchy middle-aged men in baseball caps looking away from the camera at what is, presumably, a pile of pork. Woo-hoo!

Ohioans don't just serve pork as chops, though. I'll leave you with this most interesting preparation:

If you want a cake with typical fall spices, raisins, nuts, coffee, and a pound of bulk bratwurst, Mrs. Carl L. White, Jr. (Google was no help on this "celebrity" status!) has got you covered.

Happy Wednesday! May yours be at least as exciting as the Preble County Pork Festival.