Saturday, January 28, 2017

A washed-up tropical vacation

Aaaand now, the early spring is gone. I knew it would be, but that doesn't make the departure any easier. That means today we're taking a vacation to some warmer places with Good Housekeeping's Foods with Foreign Flavor booklet (1971).

Want to vacation on the beach?

I can't help feeling like Chicken in Pineapple Shells looks like some poor creature that lives on the ocean floor but got washed in during high tide and parched in the sun when the water receded. Gaze upon all the shades of brown and bleached yellow and despair! (And it even looks as if the filling got a nice, gritty layer of sand on top.)

As an avowed sweet-and-savory hater, the idea of chicken baked in pineapple, honey, and barbecue sauce flavored rice makes me gag. Your mileage may vary. (This totally sounds like something my grandma who liked weird recipes would have fixed in an attempt to impress the family, and it would have ended with a lot of shouting about picky little girls.)

If the dried-out sea creature look isn't your vacation ideal, then how about this alternative?

I call it "Mound of Fertilizer Surrounded by Circle of Venus Fly Traps that Just Ate a Few Too Many Bad Bugs and Are Starting to Get the Sweats."

The recipe itself is not too terrible:

It's just stuffed peppers. Really greasy stuffed peppers from the looks of it, with the ground chuck cooked in half a cup of olive oil and then everything deep fried. At least it's got some actual seasoning-- tomato paste, garlic, and chili powder. Dumping a couple cans of red beans in the middle of the whole shebang does not exactly help sell this dish, but the mound does look like it would attract flies if the little flytraps decide to press their luck and just go for more.

Happy Saturday! Do something sort of tropical. I'm off to eat a few flies. (I'd like them better than that chicken.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Adventures in Soy Puree and "Skallops"

Ready for an adventure? Adventures in Dining Cook Book (Rose Greer Stoia and Norene Martin, 1978) doesn't clearly let on to the book's secret right away. The only one seems to be that all the utensils on the cover are clear. (Check it out! The nutcracker is apparently simultaneously in front of AND behind the whisk, the rolling pin, and the peeler! The knife is playing the same game with the peeler and rolling pin.)

The real secret is that Kettering Medical Center put out this book, and it is a Seventh-day Adventist institution. That means the book is vegetarian and packed with scary '70s health food, like, say, this "souffle":

I am not sure what this dish has in common with a souffle-- no whipped egg whites, and I doubt the soaked-and-pureed soybeans flavored with "Savorex" (apparently similar to soy sauce and brewers yeast) and "Smokene" (smoke-flavored soy powder) would puff up appreciably in its 9x13 baking pan. I'm guessing the name is wishful thinking.

The book is really sold on the questionable use of soy. Here's an idea for a breakfast favorite:

I love golden-brown waffles-- crispy on the outside, fluffy inside, covered with a thin coat of natural peanut butter (just to prove I'm not totally immune to health-food ways). However, I can't imagine soaked soybeans pureed with raw rolled oats with just a bit of salt and oil would lead to anything remotely edible. This just sounds like it would turn into a gritty, gummy, waffle-shaped mess. (If the waffle iron is hard to open, take it as a sign these were not meant to be and get your secret stash of Eggos instead.)

No old Seventh-day Adventist cookbook would be complete without a foray into questionable canned "meat," such as this:

Like many of the old "Oriental" dishes I've featured, the claim is shaky at best. (I doubt that many Asian countries prominently feature cream-soup-based casseroles among their specialties!) Even better, though, this also features "skallops," a canned product that apparently still exists (although now under the Loma Linda name instead of Worthington). Most of the vegetarian seafood substitutes I've tried have been dismal (like the "calamari" that might as well have been deep-fried rubber bands or the "shrimp" that could have been shrimp-shaped Play Doh flavored with mold), and they had the advantages of modern food-processing technology and being refrigerated or frozen rather than canned. I can only imagine what canned "skallops" taste like. (I'm not spending over $60 to buy a case and find out!)

As the cream of mushroom soup hints, the book does not entirely consist of straight-up health foods. Here's a decadent take on meatballs:

I'm not sure how cream cheese mixed with eggs, pecans, and cracker crumbs, then baked  under canned mushroom soup would taste (I suspect I would like it more than I want to openly admit), but it's got to taste better than most of the attempts to make pureed soybeans seem like anything other than pureed soybeans-- and make your body less happy than a salmon steak would.

These are generally not adventures that many of us would care to take, but at the same time, I can't really accuse Adventures in Dining of false advertising.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A spring stroll in the sandwiches

This week, the weather let me pretend it's spring! It was warm enough that when I walked yesterday, I kept hoping I had spotted my first snake for the year on the trail ahead, only to realize it was just a stick when I got closer. (Darn! Not this time...) So for a warmer-than-the-usual January weekend, I'm bringing in a bit of early spring from Good Housekeeping's Soups/ Salads/ Sandwiches (1971).

Yep! Today we have sandwiches that were really conceived as craft projects. Sandwiches by the Mile gives us a nice little spring lane lined with lunch meat roses on one side and cucumber bushes on the other. In the middle is a beautiful line of cobras rearing up and shrunken heads on pikes.... or maybe the olives are supposed to be flowers and the peppers are leaves. Your call.

The recipe doesn't actually explain what the various fillings are supposed to represent, so my rearing cobras and shrunken heads are completely valid interpretations. You can take the walk on your path, and I'll take mine on my path.

Sandwiches by the Mile isn't the only scenic sandwich, though. We also have a high-rise with a rooftop garden and another garden that might temporarily pass as a cake... until somebody takes a bite.

The high-rise is Striped Bread-and-Butter Loaf:

I guess it's billed as "Bread-and-Butter" because they don't want to advertise how much the filling tastes like dirt-- full of grated radishes (hot dirt) and caraway seeds (dirty gravel). Cheese butter and curry butter might be fine, but you'd have to be waaay more into radishes and caraway than I am to think either of those other fillings sound appealing.

While sandwich loaves weren't all that uncommon, the round Sandwich Torte was a bit new to me. Since it's round, the illusion that it's a cake is much more persuasive than for the loaf-shaped versions. The almond flowers on the sides and the "carrots" on the top might even lead one to assume this is a carrot cake, at least until the shrimp and olives give it away!

Far from being carrot cake, Sandwich Torte is filled with blue cheese and canned deviled ham, then decorated with horseradish cream cheese, the aforementioned shrimp, olives, and almonds, and smoked-salmon-and-dill "carrots."

It is, unfortunately, just as much a carrot cake as a day in January is an actual spring day: a good representation of it from a distance, but don't look too close or you'll be disappointed.

If you've got a temporary reprieve from winter too, enjoy it while it lasts! I'm off to spot my first snake of the year. It will happen this time. (Damn! Stick again.)

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!