Saturday, February 17, 2024

Microwaving some less-than-snacktastic nibbles

While I've already noted the too-complicated-to-bother-with-if-you're-just-microwaving-anyway recipes and the very sad diet recipes offered by A Guide to Microwave Cooking (Richland, 1981), I haven't given proper attention to the weird little snacks the book also offers. 

In addition to the usual English muffin pizza recipe (labeled "Individual Pizza Treats"), the book offers a sausage-y variation.

I've got no problems with the substitution of browned sausage (obviously not microwaved if it's browned) and green pepper for the pepperoni, but then the book suggests "plac[ing] a mound of sauerkraut over sauce for added flavor"! Can't say as I've ever wanted sauerkraut on an English muffin pizza, or that I can imagine the (often similarly picky) target audience for English muffin pizzas clamoring for this either....

If you want something to do with the pepperoni saved by not using it on a "Pizza Treat," the book offers an unusual appetizer idea.

Arrange those pepperoni slices in a pie plate, sprinkle with lemon juice, and microwave until they sizzle! I have to admit that my childhood self would have thought it was a brilliant idea to use straight-up pepperoni as an edible spoon for chip dip. (And then I would have wondered why I had indigestion half an hour later.)

The snacks aren't all quite so lowbrow, though. A Guide to Microwave Cooking also provides a recipe for Chicken Kiev Appetizers.

You can (as always!) correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the whole attraction of Chicken Kiev (or perhaps now more properly "Chicken Kyiv") was that the chicken was covered in a crispy coating and concealed a warm pocket of herby melted butter, waiting to spill out when the diner cut it open. I don't think I'm being too much of a snob to suggest that chicken that was once wrapped around butter (or margarine!) before it was sliced into pieces so the filling could run out as the poultry was microwaved to rubbery doneness DOES NOT COUNT as Chicken Kyiv. Not even remotely.

I'm glad Richland was so creative with the snacking ideas, but I can't imagine these were ever too popular....

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Banana Bonanza Evinces Some Winces

Need a smile? Try saying The Dole Banana Bonanza (1977) five times fast. 

And maybe some of the recipes would bring a smile to your face too, like the Jamaican Cream Pie (with a brown butter rum crust) or the Banana Streusel Coffee Cake. You know you're not getting those recipes here, though. Nope. I'm not in the business of making anyone smile. I mostly prefer wincing.

That's why I'm posting a sad Slim Jane Salad:

Loaded with bean sprouts, soy sauce, banana, celery, cucumber, radishes, green onion, and despair.

Or maybe, for a more indulgent take on a weird salad, I'll post the Mystery Salad:

Surprise! Those aren't potatoes! They're boiled green bananas with potato salad ingredients. There's no real mystery here, though. Why use bananas instead of the standard potatoes? Dole wants to sell more bananas. Isn't that all the reason you need?

Maybe the most wince-inducing recipe will be the guacamole-adjacent Sally's Secret Dip.

Yep! The secret is that usually the lump in the avocado-and-cream-cheese dip is a piece of banana, but occasionally it's a bit of raw onion. There's a fun guessing game that might well call for a wince.

My favorite recipe, though, is arguably less weird than any of these. I winced a little just because of the short story the title conjured in my mind.

Somebody has been working hard all morning. Maybe welding together Firebird parts, or welding together Caprice parts while pretending they were actually Firebird parts, or whatever hard workers did in the late '70s. Then the noon whistle blows. Time for a hearty lunch! The worker has been dreaming of a big slab of cold meatloaf, or maybe thick layers of ham and cheese on rye. And then he opens up the battered lunchbox to find a Tupperware containing a banana spread with a dab of thyme-and-walnut cream cheese hiding amidst a jumble of lettuce, olives, carrot sticks, and a couple thin slices of cooked salami. That's a big wince, right there. And maybe it's a hint that the worker might want to pack his own damn lunch in the future.

And now I'm smiling a little at that thought.... 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Funny name: Soapy Edition

I've heard of bathtub gin. I've heard of recipes for bath bombs, soaks, salts, etc. But I am  not entirely sure what to make of this bathtub recipe from Second Helpings (Hospital Ladies Aid Milford-Whitinsville Regional Hospital, Milford Division, undated, but maybe from the 1970s).

What turns a chocolate cake into a chocolate bathtub cake? It's not big enough to fill a bathtub. I hope the cook doesn't make it in the bathtub. (The instructions certainly don't call for bathtub construction!) It doesn't seem to be a Chopped-style novelty, like a model bathtub constructed of tempered chocolate and filled with a chocolate-cake-based trifle that chefs need to incorporate into a main course (along with cardoon, lamb kidneys, and a boxed macaroni and cheese dinner). I have no idea. I suspect that the cook hopes putting "bathtub" in the title will worry other diners enough that there will be a few extra leftover slices to savor later....

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The bar for perfection is pretty low

Is the high cost of living getting you down? Never fear! I know a cookbook that can help you cook an entire meal for just two cents! The back cover promises this.

Yes, "An entire meal cooked for 2 cents cuts the 'High Cost of Living.'" (I'm not sure why it's capitalized this way or why "High Cost of Living" is in quotation marks, but just go with it.) "What is this wonder?" you may ask.

It's the New Perfection CookBook (undated, but the stove looks similar to one in this 1922 ad, so I'm going to say 1920s, though I might be able to get a more exact date if I had the patience to go down a rabbit hole of finding the dates of production for every single New Perfection item this booklet advertises, such as the iron-heating plate).

The "For Best Results Use 'Pearl' Oil" printed very lightly on the bottom should clue you in that this is an oil-fueled stove, one that is operated "generally like ... a lamp, and quite as simple" followed by pages of instructions on wick care, ways to prevent and fix oil leaks, instructions on draining the feed pipe, etc. Cooking for two cents sounds less and less appealing, never mind "simple."

The recipes are mostly for baked goods-- cakes, cookies, puddings, pies, breads. Those less familiar with terms for old-timey cooking utensils might be alarmed by the "Spider Corn Cake."

The instructions to "Melt the butter in a hot spider" should probably tip you off that it's just a name for a type of pan that has little legs on the bottom so it can cook above a flame. No arachnids are involved!

There are also recipes for things to do with leftovers, like stretching out that last 3/4 cup of chopped meat or fish... scalloping it with hard-boiled eggs and cracker crumbs under a pint of white sauce.

And what old-timey collection would be complete without recipes for invalids, like good old Arrowroot Gruel?

Yay! Water thickened with a flavorless powder! Cream or milk may be added if the cook is feeling extravagant.

So... Not the most exciting recipe collection, but certainly fun, if for no other reason than that it allows me to spend an afternoon feeling grateful that I don't have to spend it posing in a gingham jumper handing out biscuits and pretending that I'm downright stoked to have an appliance that requires wick care and regular feed pipe drainage, all for the low price of two cents a meal and the possibility it could spring a fuel leak at any time.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Waiting out winter with cashews, root veggies, and disappointingly-flavored butterfat

Welcome to February. 😬 The Political Palate (The Bloodroot Collective (Betsey Beaven, Noel Giordano, Selma Miriam, and Pat Shea), 1980) says that late winter officially began on February 2, so we're on the back half of the cold weather season! It may eventually end.

The book suggests warming up with some Cashew Chili.

I'm impressed that this includes multiple seasonings-- not just chili powder but also cumin and oregano (though I'm a little iffy on basil in chili). There's no real explanation for the presence of cashews, but my guess is that they're supposed to stand in for the beef that's usually found in chili. I'm waaaay less enthused about the raisins, though. It would be so disconcerting to be eating a bowl of chili and bite into an intensely sweet spot!

And just because it's late winter, that doesn't mean you should skip out on the salad course. Winter is root vegetable season, so the book suggests shredding some.

This salad involves eating shredded beets... So that's gonna be a hard pass from me. (A topping of raw onion doesn't help matters.)

And for dessert, the book offers one of those staples of '70s-style health food: carob! This time, it's in cheesecake.

In this case, the carob disappointingly substituting for cocoa powder can be bolstered by a disappointing substitute for coffee like Pero or Bambu. At least the recipe calls for real cream cheese and heavy cream-- but that just makes this seem like a disappointing waste of dairy fat. But hey-- it's late winter! Everybody-- especially health foodists-- needs insulation at this point. I think I'm going to go back into hibernation and hope late winter will end early.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Raise a glass to Heisey

I had absolutely no idea what Heiseyites were when I spotted Heiseyite's Favorites. I assumed Heisey must be some small town I'd never heard of, but the inside cover specified that this collection was created by The Heisey Collectors of the Northern Illinois Club, so I knew it was something to collect. (I know, I have impressive deductive skills.)

Before trying to look Heisey  up, I turned another page and learned that "All of these recipes have been gathered from Heisey Collectors' Kitchens where lives have been touched with love for family, friends, and Heisey glassware; We say use them, enjoy them and share your board in Heisey fellowship throughout the years." So... glassware then. The book is undated, and it doesn't give any hint of whether it was written before or after Heisey closed in 1957. Apparently the brand was popular enough that there's still a Heisey museum with an annual membership option. (I shouldn't have looked it up because now I have a sudden urge to own a jade-green glass rabbit that I would immediately break when I tried to find someplace to display it. I guess the glass really does have an effect on people!)

In any case, the book is mimeographed, so it's unlikely to be any newer than from the 1970s. The book is pretty short, too-- maybe because nobody wanted to do that much mimeographing? In any case, it's got the selection of old recipes one might expect. There's a small twist on the traditional green bean casserole.

Yep-- This version becomes a main dish with the addition of pork chops between the layer of souped-up green beans and the topping of crunchy onions.

There's a sad little diabetic cookie recipe. At least there's an attempt to make them sound fun by calling them Cinnamon Pixie Cookies.

Note that the choices of using milk, fruit juice, or coffee as the liquid may also be an attempt to make the cookies sound more exciting than they probably are, given the unlikelihood that a stray tablespoon of fruit juice or coffee will have much of an impact on flavor.

There's a Cooling Summer Punch for sipping on Illinois porches from one's Heisey drinkware.

I have to admit that I think plain old lemonade sounds more cooling than lemonade with milk in it. I love the addition of "white soda," though.

There are homey little appetizers.

My favorite thing about Bacon Pull-Ups has to be the last sentence, noting that when you make these little rolls of bacon and cream cheese on white bread, you "Better figure at least 4-5 per person." (My second favorite detail is that the bread should be rolled up "like a rug.")

The thing that most caught my attention, though, was the final "recipe" in the booklet. It's one of those overly sentimental "recipe-for-friendship" type dealies, but this time the recipe is for Reality Cake.

Love? Happiness? Joy? Peace? "Contnentment"? (Notably the ingredients call for only two people, though, so the writer has to be an introvert who realizes that kids and/or too many social engagements ruin everything.) I can't help but wonder how long the writer had been an actual grownup, though, because this is a seriously idealized version of reality! My reality cake ingredients would probably be closer to this:

  • 3 part-time jobs
  • 1 3/4 hours sleep
  • 2 sagging bookshelves that I can't get to without tripping over all the other books in front of them
  • 1 1/2 papers left to grade before I momentarily think I'm done and then realize I forgot about this whole other folder
  • 1/2 of a stale granola bar scrounged from the bottom of my backpack when I realized I left lunch at home on the counter
  • 1 tsp. of peace and goddamn quiet (if available)

But who knows? Maybe reality really is better for people who collect Heisey glass and I'm just too much of a cynic. A jade-green glass rabbit might just change my life if I could avoid breaking it.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Some vaguely-themed vegetable protein for winter

Let's chase away a little of winter's chill with a Mexican menu for winter from The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook (Jeanne Larson and Ruth McLin, 1977). 

I can't say that Mexican Loaf is the most appetizing name I've ever heard for a recipe, but maybe it's tastier than it sounds.

Or maybe it is even less exciting than it sounds. The only thing even close to a spice is poultry seasoning, so it's mostly just a brick of unseasoned beans, stale bread, and onions bound with eggs and cheese that might taste vaguely of poultry if you're lucky. I guess it's supposed to be Mexican because beans are involved? I also feel compelled to note that this is one of those recipes that tells cooks to "add rest of ingredients" to the blender, "Blend until smooth," and then add the cheese and onion, as if readers are supposed to intuitively know that the onions and cheese don't count as actual ingredients for some reason (or as if they're supposed to read the recipe all the way through before starting so at least they'll know that the writers didn't think of them as ingredients).

To go with the Mexican Loaf, there's a Potato and Carrot Casserole.

There's certainly nothing wrong with mashed root vegetables (especially if they're mixed with butter instead of margarine!), but this seems like a pretty random addition to the Mexican Loaf. If Larson and McLin were trying to write a themed menu, they weren't trying very hard.

In fact, the Tender-Crisp Vegetables suggest the authors forgot the Mexican premise entirely and decided to go for a generic Americanized "Chinese" menu instead.

You don't really think of sautéed bean sprouts, celery, peppers, onions, and mushrooms flavored with a bit of soy sauce as Mexican, after all. 

The side of corn muffins (no recipe provided) and Quick Rice Pudding dessert seem to suggest that Larson and McLin said, "Oh, yeah. We were making a Mexican-themed menu" before they finished up, but they didn't care enough to go back and keep the rest of the menu's theme consistent. 

The pudding uses precooked rice and a package of vanilla pudding mix, again showing that the authors were more practical than a lot of '70s health food cooks-- no starting with plain brown rice that needs to be simmered for an hour or more! And this recipe does include a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar at the end, so it does have at least a bit of the flair of arroz con leche.

Maybe the real theme of this menu is that it's better to do a half-assed job and get it done than to just give up entirely? That's a lesson I could stand to remember in mid-winter.