Saturday, November 30, 2019

Punching Out December!

As the year draws near the end, we have time for one more bit of advice from Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976). Since there are so many mid-December get-togethers that may require a little lubrication, she turned to a character who occasionally shows up in the book-- One-Hoss-- for some advice about punch.

For those who like the flavor of fall shading into winter (or who have always wanted to taste a hot pomander), this is full of apple and warm spices with just a touch of flaming oranges! It's probably better to make this one before imbibing, or you might set the house/ yourself/ your guests on fire. (And don't try making this punch in a glass punch bowl, or you "might as well... hit it with a pipe wrench." Punch bowls aren't usually fireproof.)

If you want something a bit less likely to set the drapes ablaze and prefer the thought of beer loaded up with a dozen eggs (and some liquor!) to a bowl of eggnog, then Mrs. Beeton's Rumfustian might be more your speed.

Added bonus: If your sidewalks are insufficiently hairy, a Rumfustian will fur them right up! (Not sure why you'd want hair on your sidewalks, but I don't judge! Do with your sidewalks what you will.)

So now let's drink a toast to Peg Bracken and her almanac(k). She may have hated to cook, but she was fun to hang out with for the past year, maybe because she used more liquor and less canned soup than I expected.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Make the food (rather than the conversation) divisive!

Tired of Aunt Debbie complaining that you don't make sweet potatoes just like her mom used to? Sick of cousin Brian going on endlessly about how much better the mashed potatoes were last year?

Well, how about changing up the holiday menu with ideas from Happiness Is More Recipes (Twig 19 Barney Children's Medical Center Women's Auxiliary, 1966)?

Instead of the tired old cranberry salad, how about some Holiday Cabbage?

It's more of a fruit compote with cabbage thrown in than a traditional cabbage dish, so hopefully there will be no precedent to compare this to! Plus, it lets your relatives know you will throw cabbage into just about anything if they get on your nerves, so that's a good threat to keep them in line for next year.

If you want some polarizing potatoes, this recipe might be just the thing:

Since both sweet potatoes and egg nog can be divisive flavors, I imagine part of the family will think that Sweet Potatoes with Egg Nog Sauce is a stroke of genius and part of the family will want to pelt you with cranberries and dinner rolls if you serve this.

If the family insists on staying overnight, you can use leftover cranberry jelly to make a unique coffeecake for breakfast:

A banana nut cake topped with cranberry jelly quadrants again sounds like something that will win the cook either undying devotion or a lie about how the guests don't usually eat breakfast anyway, so you shouldn't take their refusal to touch it personally.

And speaking of slathering everything with cranberry, leftovers can be turned into lunch with Saucy Turkey Sandwiches.

The sandwiches are really saucy, with both cranberry sauce and American cheese sauce smothering each sloppy layer. Again, this could be an opportunity to get the family OUT OF YOUR HOUSE or make them threaten to move in forever, depending on their feelings about bright yellow cheese mixed with tart berries and re-hydrated turkey.

And if you want to give them a little Christmas preview so they can decide if they want to return, hit them with a Frosty Yule Log.

Well, not literally, unless you want to be cleaning deviled ham mixed with cream cheese and onion dip out of the curtains and off the floor for a week. But you get the idea.

Here's hoping that whatever you have for the holidays, it gets the results you desire!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

'70s health food for busy people!

Need a few quick and nutritious meals to help offset all the hours of mixing gobs of butter with various carbs (Bread! Potatoes! Sweet potatoes!) for Thanksgiving? It's '70s health food to the rescue!

The back of The Busy People's Naturally Nutritious Decidedly Delicious Fast Foodbook (Sharon Elliot, with illustrations by Sandy Haight, 1977) promises "If you have time to read the title of this book[,] you have time to make just about any recipe in it..." I guess they had a sense of humor about that unwieldy title, but they didn't necessarily need to say that for me to get the point. Anyone who would let a rainbow-winged pineapple fly across the cover of the book has to have a sense of humor.

The recipes are on the very simple end of the '70s health food spectrum. There are no recipes that start with hours of cooking dry beans or rounds of kneading and rinsing the starch out of wheat flour to isolate the gluten.

Instead, it's blending prunes and a bit of molasses into lowfat milk to make Prunella (which I chose from among all the weird health shakes because before I was born, it's the name my mother says she jokingly told people she was going to give me). I'm not sure whether the picture was more or less disturbing once I realized that the prunes have faces. (Look at the eyelashes and ... uh ... suggestive mouth on the prune that's front-and-center.)

If Prunella isn't substantial enough, the book offers the carob-flavored equivalent of a meal-replacement shake.

Shake-a-Meal  is essentially those health-food "candies" loaded up with nonfat milk powder, honey, and peanut butter-- with some milk and ice to thin it out to a drinkable consistency. Nothing is quite like trying to drink a quarter cup of peanut butter for lunch!

No '70s health food book is complete without a few recipes insisting that anything can be a dessert if you pretend hard enough.

But NO! Cottage cheese scooped onto bananas with an ice cream scoop is NOT a banana split, even if it has nuts, seeds, and some softened fruit juice concentrate on top.

And finally, a spread with a fear-inducing portmanteau of a name and a nonsensical illustration.

What is Pesoyta? It's peanut butter, crushed soy nuts, and tahini mixed into a long-lasting spread/ dip, and illustrated as a huge mound of peanut-covered... uh... bird shit? Wearing a sombrero? For reasons? I'm not really sure about any of this, but the point is that it's quick and easy! And isn't that all that matters? ("Yes," the book whispers. "Yes." It needs you to believe this!) And maybe if you're distracted enough worrying about how many pounds of potatoes and stuffing you need this year, you'll be distracted enough to mindlessly agree for a few seconds, at least until the Prunella and Pesoyta pass your lips...

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Very Foxy Cook

It's time to get foxy!

 In this case, that means a peek into The Foxy Pot (St. Christopher's Guild of Gates Mills, Ohio, 1963).

Reynard, the fox, is apparently the mascot of St. Christopher's. (I use the present tense because an internet search shows the church is still around and that their biannual rummage sale is called Christopher Fox's Bargain Box.) Illustrator Paul Meunier's pictures of the fox to begin each chapter are so whimsical that they are my favorite part of the book.

For the vegetable chapter, Reynard waits impatiently for the garden to grow.

Good luck waiting on those sardines to sprout!

The absurdism is matched by the book's inclusion of some of Edward Lear's nonsense recipes, such as Gosky Patties.

A "recipe" that requires feeding a Pig five pounds of currants, three pounds of sugar, two pecks of peas, 18 roast chestnuts, a candle, and six bushels of turnips as often as the pig will devour them, then requires a paste of cream, Cheshire cheese, four quires of foolscap paper and a packet of black pins to be dried before beginning to beat the Pig over a series of days certainly sounds labor-intensive. All of this activity ends with waiting to see if "the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties." And of course, there's a good chance that it won't, and the Pig should simply be let loose. Yeah-- this definitely seems as futile as the fox waiting for its anchovies to sprout.

The fox seems to be pretty clumsy, too. The dessert chapter begins with poor Reynard falling face down into the birthday cake he's carrying out of the kitchen:

Luckily, the book does have a few recipes for klutzes like Reynard and me, such as these Festive Canapés.

I don't see too many recipes calling for cooks to "Spread one side of each bread round with sardine mixture and flop, sardine side down, on a lettuce leaf...." I wouldn't mind more recipes that ask cooks to "flop" ingredients around! I can handle flopping.

Of course, the picture that will most insistently tug at the heartstrings of any devotee of old cookbooks comes from the salad chapter.

Let's all shed a tear for the gelatin that did not unmold properly!

If, however, the mold in question is Broccoli Ring, welllllllllll...

Maybe the loss of some broccoli and hard cooked eggs suspended in jelled comsommé and mayonnaise is not the greatest loss.

I hope you love Reynard, the cooking fox, just as much as I do! A big thanks to my little sister who sent this foxy book for my birthday.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Sweetpotatoes and cranberries gone wild!

I posted about The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Cookbook (Celebrity Kitchen, Inc. in cooperation with United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, 1973) in the summer, as that's generally the height of fresh fruit and veggie season. However, the book also has plenty of recipes to celebrate harvest season, so here are a few Thanksgiving-appropriate recommendations.

If you live in the south, maybe it's kind of warm to want to make a big roast turkey? (I don't know-- I'm usually wishing I had more time to bake everything in sight to help heat up my apartment by late November!) Well, if you want a cool and easy Thanksgiving dinner, here's a combination the family is sure to remember for generations to come:

Fill a molded cranberry salad ring with a mound of turkey salad. Just buy some rolls from the bakery so everyone can make their own turkey salad mini-sandwiches and dinner is served! (And if you're lucky, the turkey salad can come from the deli. Holiday dinner has never been so chill.)

Bonus content: If you want your cranberry and turkey to be together in the same salad, rather than mounding one salad into the other, Community Favorites: Meat Magic (Favorite Recipes Press, 1965) offers this as an option:

If you want to go the more traditional route, though, you can stuff the cranberries into the turkey rather than plopping the turkey into the cranberries:

I love how the editors write "sweetpotato" as one word! They really love their sweetpotato stuffing, too. For those who are not so crazy about cranberries in the stuffing, there are a couple of alternatives. If you want a special stuffing for your turkey, try Sweetpotato Stuffing for Turkey.

If you really love sausage stuffing, then Sweetpotato-Sausage Stuffing might be more your speed.

And if you suspect the editors might not have been paying too much attention because this is the exact same recipe with two different titles, then congratulations! You are more observant than the editors, who put these "two" recipes on the exact same page, one atop the other. But hey, it's Thanksgiving! Interactions with family tend to go a lot better if nobody looks too closely or thinks too hard, so the editors must have been going with that mindset. (Nobody really wants to know what Uncle Bill meant by that comment, right?) So have another glass of wine and dig into those cranberries, sweetpotatoes, and whatever else isn't nailed down! (Well, except your relatives. I hope they are neither nailed down nor dug into!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Heating Up the Blender

I often write about blender cookbooks in the summer because they have so many chilled recipes, but rather than using the *delightful* cold snap as an excuse to check out a soup or baking cookbook, I decided to showcase some hot foods from the blender. The Blender Way to Better Cooking (edited by Betty Sullivan, 1965) is back to warm us up rather than cool us down!

Good, hot soup is a cold-weather staple, though, so I won't skip it. Let's start the meal with something hot and creamy. Cream of mushroom or cream of chicken are so overdone, though.

So how about Hot Cream of Avocado Soup? (Hot avocados just seem weird to me, but your mileage may vary.)

For the main course, here's something that calls for running so much meat through a blender that I'm reminded of my first job... working as a cook in a nursing home.

Of course, our old people didn't get blender-chopped liver-and-onion burgers wrapped in bacon. They just got Salisbury steak liquified with a little milk. (I'm not sure which is worse, but it's probably the Salisbury steak since it didn't have any bacon.)

Of course, we should have a salad to go with the burgers, but it's hard to get too excited about chilled salad greens on a frigid day. A warm salad is just the thing...

Of course, maybe those cold, raw salad greens will seem more exciting if the alternative is iceberg lettuce chopped up in the blender, sautéed for ten minutes, and then soaked in a chicken broth-bread-sour cream sauce and topped with more bread crumbs.

A nice, old-fashioned steamed pudding should finish the meal off in a cozy way.

This looks like a pretty standard carrot-cakish type deal at first. Then I realized that in place of the can of crushed pineapple, this calls for two medium potatoes, cut in pieces and then blender-grated after the carrots. Potatoes are pretty awesome in most applications, so who knows? Maybe they belong in carrot cake too. A weird surprise can help make a cold snap a little more bearable, and I am waaay more willing to make this claim for potatoes in dessert than for hot lettuce with liver burgers. Stay warm, everyone!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Casseroles as TV Dinners

The illustration on the cover page of The Casserole Cookbook (director Melanie de Proft for the Culinary Arts Institute, 1956) suggests what the cookbook is all about:

Mom wants to be able to watch TV with the rest of the family and would feel bad if she kept serving Swanson TV dinners all the time, so it was this little book to the rescue.

Of course, the combinations were sometimes strange compared to the turkey with buttered peas and potatoes Swanson offered, but I'm sure the per-serving costs were waaay lower.

The kids might not be too thrilled with deviled eggs served over noodles in an evaporated-milk-and-tomato-soup sauce, but they might shut up if eating it meant getting to watch The Wizard of Oz or Ed Sullivan, making mealtime an easier battle to win than bedtime.

Maybe mom could even talk the kids into believing the bread crumbs on top were straw that had fallen off of the Scarecrow.

Or she could build a yellow (okay, golden-brown) brick road around the edge of the casserole...

Emphasis on the brown because the biscuits are bran, floating over a swamp of chopped up hard-cooked eggs and canned peas in white sauce. So nothing like the yellow brick road, really, but she tried, okay?

I also liked the reminders that this cookbook was before the wave of carbophobia hit mainstream America. This geometric casserole...

...uses a pastry crust on top of a Tuna Spaghetti casserole. I kind of wondered why a casserole that is supposed to serve eight only has six pastry wedges on top, but I guess it's so the smart asses like me who point out the redundancy of pastry on top of noodles can be deprived of that flaky delight and get a sad, crustless pile o' noodles.

And finally, the same pages with this recipe point out to those of us who may be inclined to feel sorry for the poor tuna:

The fishers only catch the dumb ones. The ones who paid attention in school learned about fishhooks and stayed away! (And the ones who played hooky to watch The Gumby Show instead are now in front of the TV once again, this time in casserole form. Stay in school, kids!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Top Chefs Reveal: One Little-Known Trick that Will Make All Your Dishes Company-Worthy

Maybe the homey-looking bowls of tapioca pudding on the cover garnished with miscellaneous bits of whatever happened to be in the kitchen will make you see this as an old-fashioned recipe booklet. The bright colors, bold star, and eye-catching title Miracles with Minute Tapioca (General Foods Corp., 1948) hint that the recipes inside are precursors of today's clickbait headlines.

Yes, minute tapioca is simply miraculous-- not just for creamy desserts (and I'm hoping to write a whole post on the dessert bowls adorning the front AND back cover someday), but for just about anything.

Do you need a miracle cheese soufflé for guests?

Yes, a miracle that "Puffs up high-- stays up"?

That one funny trick all the best homemakers know is, of course, throwing in a bit of Minute Tapioca.

Need a handsome dinner companion that will never sit down before the company?

One with "the oh-so-fluffy, moist, and wonderful texture that stays up for serving"?

One with an exciting chef's secret to be revealed only on page 19?

If you guessed the chef's secret was tapioca, you're catching on to the game quite well.

And if you didn't, well, I've got another miracle to tell you about.

What will make your meat loaf so juicy and tender that you'll shout "Hallelujah"?

And what will give it those weird little green flecks all throughout?

Okay, tapioca is the miracle ingredient for tender juiciness. Cooked peas are the weird green lumps.

Some miracles are a bit harder to pin down.

Apparently, Salmon Casserole is another tapioca miracle.

I'm kind of hazy as to what makes tapioca in a canned salmon casserole topped with baking powder biscuits so miraculous, but General Mills assumes I will figure it out.

So maybe this casserole won't get overexcited and pee on the guests?

Look, the point is TAPIOCA. It's the secret of all the top chefs in the General Mills Minute Tapioca kitchen.

So throw some in the chop suey too, for no apparent reason, and call it a day.

See-- this cookbook really was anticipating the internet! It's not just Chop Suey, it's #chopsuey!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Preview of a Hate-to-Cook Thanksgiving

It's no surprise that Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976) advises readers to attend a potluck Thanksgiving at someone else's house. Not hosting means not having to cook the turkey, and your contribution to dinner can be much smaller and easier. The best choice, as far as Bracken is concerned, is a non-pie dessert. (Dessert is almost certain to be good even if it's easy, and if it's not a pie, then nobody will compare it to the one mom or grandma used to make!) She wasn't psychic, so she didn't specifically point out that the recipe for Kahlua Cream could also help take the edge off of having to spend the day with relatives who were busy griping about the election of that lousy peanut farmer, but I think it's safe to infer that the buzz was a helpful side effect.

For those unlucky enough to have to make the turkey or lucky enough to get leftovers from somebody else's turkey, Bracken offers a couple of recipes to dress up whatever remains.

In the somewhat-adventurous-for-the-genre column, there's Sour Cream Turkey Curry.

It's exactly what it sounds like-- sour cream, curry powder, and turkey, with a little chicken broth and onion for flair. If you read the instructions before you start the recipe, you might even start the rice before the curry so you don't have to worry about the sour cream curdling while the rice cooks!

For those who prefer meals with a stereotypical Italian accent, there's Atsa My Turkey!

It's a mix of fettucini with turkey, wine, broth, milk, and plenty o' cheese! The lesson at the end of the chapter is apparently that leftover turkey tastes best with lots of milk fat. To be fair, the addition of cheese and/or cream is one of the easiest ways to make anything taste good, so Bracken scores again!

Whether you're looking forward to Thanksgiving or kind of dreading it, I hope your November is off to a good start! I'm looking forward to finally getting the veggie-based "turkey" roast out of my freezer that someone in my family picked out for Thanksgiving dinner last year, and then changed the plan. I could really use that extra space.... It's good to be thankful for the little things.