Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Oh, stuff it!

"'Microwave families', especially the younger generation, are often indifferent to browning."

That somewhat unpromising line comes from the beginning of Microwaving Meats (Barbara Methven, 1979), yet another 1970s cookbook that simultaneously insisted a microwave could, in fact, do everything while secretly admitting that no, it actually couldn't.

Without extraordinary measures, the meat will not brown. It will, perhaps, turn rubbery. But you've got a microwave, dammit, so of course the microwave is the best tool for making meat. If you've got a microwave, then every problem looks like a bag of microwaveable popcorn... or something like that.

Methven's favorite method of drawing people's attention away from the browning issue seems to be cooking by stuffing things into other things.

If you're mesmerized by the "G" in the middle of the ham, cheese, and asparagus loaf, then maybe you won't notice the spongy texture.

Or that the microwaving time of 30-40 minutes is still pretty long for a microwaved meal.

Yep, stuffing will cause enough distraction that people won't notice the smooth, tilting-toward-slimy finish on the main attraction, which is why the method for filling the ham, cheese, and asparagus loaf is shared with another loaf.


Just look at that bright red and green spiral cutting through the pinkish-gray loaf!

And if making great big microwaved loaves of meat seems too time consuming, there's always the alternative of little stuffed meats.

They can be stuffed with cheese and mushrooms; spinach, cheese, and bacon; or cheese and mushrooms! The microwave time is down to 8-10 minutes, so they're at least faster.

My favorite recipe is, of course, the ring mold! Why have a plain old microwaved stuffed meatloaf when you can have a microwaved ring-shaped stuffed  meatloaf?

Just layer it all up...

It's full of old favorites: ground beef, stuffing mix, canned mushrooms, and onion.

And then microwave into this glorious layer cake of meaty weirdness:

One that looks kind of like some FFA project about ways to enrich the soil...

If you take nothing else from today's microwave lesson, at least remember this: Barbara Methven wants you to stuff it!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Two-in-one holiday classics!

Memorial Day is Monday, so I thought I should find some new picnic salad or hot dog recipes for the occasion. Luckily, The New Hotdog Cookbook (Mettja C. Roate, copyright 1968, reprinted 1983) had plenty of hot dog salad recipes, so I didn't have to choose one or the other! Today you get both.

If you like a traditional macaroni salad at a picnic, try Hot Dog and Macaroni Salad #2.

In addition to the macaroni and mayo, you get chunks of American cheese, celery, pimiento, green pepper, and, of course, the hot dogs. (I picked salad #2 because it featured American cheese, and #1 had cucumbers, onions, and hard boiled eggs instead.)

If you're like my Grandma W. and enjoy a vat of bean salad, here's the hot dog version:

If you prefer potato salad, there's this option:

I don't think French dressing mixed with sour cream is a traditional dressing, but I don't do potato salad, so I could be wrong. My favorite part of the recipe is the note that "If you cut [the hot dogs] while they are hot they will curl backwards, making a more decorative dish." So definitely cut them hot if you want a fancy, decorative potato salad.

And if the curled hot dogs aren't special enough, you can always add canned beets to make the potato salad pink!

And of course, if your salad selection is simply not complete without something floating in gelatin, I offer Jellied Hot Dog Loaf:

It begins with chopping "six of the hot dogs until they are the consistency of coarse corn meal," proceeds to fold those chopped franks into whipped gelatin along with pickles, olives, grated onions, mustard, and mayo, suspends another half-dozen whole hot dogs throughout the mixture, and ends by serving generous slices "with additional mayonnaise which has been slightly flavored with horseradish."

There you have it: FIVE different hot dog salads for your holiday delectation! I hope you have a chance to make something you'll actually like instead.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Let's explore canned fruit with chickens

You wouldn't know it from the cover's synchronized team of birds swimming in a pool of rice and parsley, but Blue Ribbon Poultry Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1973) is really infatuated with fruit-and-poultry combinations. It is nearly impossible to find a page that doesn't feature a recipe with canned pineapple, canned mandarin oranges, or orange juice concentrate as an ingredient in at least one of the recipes. Of the five prizes awarded to the top recipes, four went to fruity dishes (and the fifth still had lemon juice and wine in it, if no actual fruit). I'm on the record as not being a fan of the fruit + savory ingredient dinners, but you'd really have to be a fan of fruit and poultry to love this book, and especially to award a prize to a recipe like this fifth-place winner:

Tutti-Frutti Chicken is serious about having all the fruits-- mandarin oranges, pears, pineapple chunks, AND maraschino cherries-- in that soy-sauce-and-fruit-juice-covered confection. In the spirit of excess, the dish also features rice on the bottom and chow mein noodles with slivered almonds on top.

I'll admit, there are a few weird non-fruity recipes in here, like the head-scratchingly-named lasagna knockoff, Toss It to Me:

A lasagna made with cubed turkey and cottage cheese, then garnished with sliced frankfurters? I'd almost expect to see this in The Thrifty Cook instead, but the Farm Journal didn't have a monopoly on odd lasagna-ish recipes.

Most recipes, though, are more fruit-forward, from the Flowering Plum Cornish Hens

covered in oranges, chili sauce, lemonade concentrate, purple plum puree, and shredded coconut.... the Chicken Cerise, the dish that makes diners play that popular party game "Am I about to bite into a pearl onion or a cherry?" when they take a bite without examining it too closely... the Chick-A-Dilly, a dish that sounds like it was named by Ned Flanders but made by the devil himself. Who else thinks that a mélange of apricot preserves, pineapple, dill pickles, and maraschino cherries is a lovely accompaniment to chicken and rice?

Okay, maybe this would be a good sundae topper for those stereotypical pregnant women who want pickles and ice cream, but I will admire this sacrifice to the gods of canned foodstuffs from a very, very safe distance.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

That little something extra in the back of the cookbook

I love it when I find notes, clippings, extra recipes, cards, etc. in old cookbooks. It's like I've won the world's most boring lottery, and I'm so boring that I think it's awesome to have a yellowed, falling-apart sheet of newspaper with a long-forgotten recipe on it. One prize I won from my copy of Lorain Cooking (by Dorothy E. Shank for American Stove Company, 1930) was a Sunday dinner recommendation. (There's no information about the newspaper, but I've figured out from some of the news items that it must be from February 1946).

The Sunday family meal starts out with pork chops cooked in onion and tomato, then finished with canned vegetables.

The twist I like for this meal is that while it's a take on the traditional pork chops and applesauce, eaters are not expected to eat the pork and apples together. (I know, I know, people love fruit and meat, but I never saw the appeal...)

Apple cream pie is sort of an applesauce-gelatin-custard in a crumb crust. I'm not sure how good it would be, but at least it's separate from the pork chops!

I just loved this little window into Sunday dinners past.

(My real nostalgia is for Sunday suppers, though. We used to have popcorn and maybe ice cream on Sunday nights after my mom's special hearty midday meal of unseasoned potatoes and carrots baked with beef until the veggies were mush and the roast was shoe leather.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tuna, tuna everywhere...

Tuna: A Saga of the Sea (Tuna Research Foundation, undated, but the historical section ends in 1948 and online sources suggest the booklet is from the 1950s) has plenty of recipes in addition to information about the history, nutrition, and canning of tuna. ("On their arrival to the cannery the fresh or thawed frozen fish are eviscerated, washed and placed in wire mesh baskets in which they are cooked in steam retorts at a temperature of 218° for three to six hours depending on the size of the fish.")

To give you a good overview of the booklet, I've made one of my patented menus of mayhem, starting with an appetizer that looks like a cat barfed on some Saltines and the host thoughtfully topped the mess with pimento:

If nothing else, it's a great way to waste a perfectly-good avocado.

Now, we'll need a salad. No, not the usual salad of canned tuna with mayo and a little celery.

How about canned tuna, mushrooms, and grapefruit with a little celery in a nice tuna-oil-and-lemon-juice dressing? That will put some hair on your chest (making you look more like a commercial fisherman!).

Maybe we should try to find something a little more dainty and cheerful for the main course. How about a dish that looks like lima beans, black olives, and big wads of tuna festively bobbing in a pool of melted vanilla ice cream?

Relax, it's not really vanilla ice cream. It's just white sauce.

White sauce that somehow got associated with Catalina, though Catalina denies the connection.

I'll admit, this tuna booklet is one of the few specialty food booklets that does not suggest that the specialty food can do absolutely everything. That's my delicate way of admitting there is no chapter on tuna desserts. I'm not going to let that stop me, though! I'm going with the tried-and-true "Is it a salad or is it a dessert?" conundrum, and I'm declaring this salad to be a secret dessert:

You read that right! It's Banana Split Tuna Salad. Okay, I'll admit that few desserts include chopped onion, celery, and green pepper along with the titular tuna, but all the cranberries, nuts, sugar, orange, and bananas should make up for it, right? And besides, it's called a banana split, so it must be a dessert treat.

This ended up being much more riveting reading than I expected from a booklet that thought explaining the temperature of the steam retorts in the cannery would be exciting.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Chilly Reception for Mother's Day

Sunday is Mother's Day, so a lot of families will drag mom out to brunch. Since I'm a weirdo who likes old stuff, I will suggest making a nuncheon instead.

Suzy Chapin's Low-Calorie Party Cook Book (1971) dusts off this "word that has been out of use for about one hundred and fifty years" to describe "a perfect little cold lunch ... to be eaten in the gazebo, sun porch, or terrace." Moms like gazebos and weight watching, right? (Okay, stereotypical moms-- not mine specifically. She's more into scarfing down pork chops in church basements.)

Mom's nuncheon starts with the ever-exciting Vegetable Cocktail with Celery Swizzles.

If you couldn't guess how to make it from the title alone, there's even a recipe for dunking celery stalks in V-8. Fancy!

Then on to something pink and fluffy so it's extra girly:

Ham Mousse! Why enjoy a savory slice of ham when it could be ground up and congealed in chicken-flavored gelatin with more celery and some reduced-calorie mayo?

A fresh and delicious salad might help make up for the first two items' shortcomings.

Well, it might if it were actually fresh and not frozen green beans soaked in diet salad dressing and sprinkled with verging-on-rancid sunflower kernels from the bulk bin of the health-food store.

At least there's always dessert:

Granted, oranges taken out of their peels, mixed with other fruits, and stuffed back into their peels is not the most exciting dessert in town, but fancied up with a little orange liqueur and vanilla ice milk, this is the most exciting part of mom's special nuncheon. The party might be sad enough that mom will secretly be relieved if you forget Mother's Day next year.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go out for a walk and to yell at every passer-by who tries to wish me a happy Mother's day because they assume that all women of a certain age are moms. Some of us have OTHER PLANS, buddy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Thrifty Cook Believes in Layers

The Thrifty Cook: Tasty Budget Recipes (food editors of Farm Journal, edited by Nell B. Nichols, 1974) lived up to its name for me.

As you can see, I got it for just fifty cents! Of course, that's because the cover is, as you can see, not in particularly great shape anymore. Apparently someone really didn't like the look of the bowl of soup(?) on the cover and just tore it right off. Now the salad just has to sit there, lonely, by the trivet.

The book mostly caters to traditional Midwest tastes, putting a (very) little spin on them to make them seem interesting.

Want to liven up the old meat-and-potatoes diet?

Add excitement by making instant mashed potato flake volcanoes erupting with mini meatloaves and Velveeta!

Wish you could stretch out the holiday classic green bean casserole to turn it into the main dish?

Add some potatoes and pork chops and it's a done deal.

And if your family is craving sandwiches and you're not sure what you've got on hand, well...

You can always try making a bologna/ American cheese/ kidney bean bruschetta-type thing.

The editors' favorite question for budget dishes, though, seemed to be "Will it lasagne?" The answer must have nearly always been yes. As long as you can add cheese, veggies, and carbs in layers, you can turn anything into lasagna.

The variation most likely to capture my rice-loving heart:

I always thought the big noodles were slippery and unwieldy anyway, so I can almost see myself trying to transform this one into a modernized vegetarian casserole-for-one version (even as you noodle lovers out there boo).

I'm less enthusiastic at the thought of this contender for a Saturday funny name post:

Company Tunasagne is clearly just tuna casserole with lasagna noodles instead of regular egg noodles, but apparently the slight variation makes this homey waiting-for-our-next-paycheck classic company-worthy.

The last one is more traditional-- tomato sauce! Lasagna noodles! But the protein will save money only as long as the price of eggs is low...

And yes, you might note that the memo to meal planner notes another lasagna variation-- this one much more traditional-- that I didn't even bother to include. The Thrifty Cook really thinks lasagne (lasagna!) is the cure for many budget woes.

So now I'm left trying to imagine other budget "lasagne" dinners the book left out. Maybe layers of kidney beans, cottage cheese, polenta, tomato sauce, and mozzarella? Lentils, lasagna noodles, béchamel, and a whisper of Parmesan? The thrifty cook can lasagnify anything.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Funny Name: Sacred Bovines Edition

One other thing I don't understand about the Ohio cooks who submitted recipes to Favorite Recipes of Ohio: Meats Edition Including Poultry and Seafood (1965) is how they can get so worked-up over a fairly run-of-the-mill meat sauce.

Is it the full half-teaspoon of chili powder in the mixture of ground beef, onion, green pepper, tomato sauce, and canned mushrooms that makes it so exciting? Holy Cow, indeed!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May: The Month of Limited-Item, Nonthinking Dinners

It's May! And if your tastes in the home arts are not nearly as complicated as May's (though she is more interested in sewing than cooking...), then May's entries in Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976) might be more your speed.

Knowing that housepersons would generally rather be spending their time dealing with the crabgrass outside than doing the same old housework indoors, Bracken supplies some mostly hands-off main dishes for the month. The first is billed as a "nonthinking dinner":

Of course, I love a recipe that specifies for the veggies to be "cut up any way." Needing access to a palm or oak tree to crush the rosemary suggests that those in the deep south outside of Florida might be the best equipped to cook this, though. 😉

If you want something a little more complex than eggplant and tomato with a little rosemary, there's a four-ingredient casserole too.

I'll admit that I had no familiarity with frozen corn soufflé, but it looks like it's still a thing and just a pre-prepared version of corn pudding. Chili beans, corn chips, and corn pudding heated under a melty cheese layer doesn't sound too bad to me, to be honest. With the suggested additions of chili powder or cumin and oregano, Bracken went all out on this one. Happy May! Try this one for Cinco de Mayo if you're brave.