Saturday, April 21, 2018

Casserole Cavalcade!

Here's a secret about Poppy: I often genuinely and ironically love things at the same time. If I'm at a concert, I'll cheer because I genuinely love the music, but I'm also kind of cheering because I think it's silly to cheer and I'm making fun of the impulse.

That same principle applies to casseroles too. I love them both ironically and unironically. I can't be too serious about loving overcooked vegetables and flabby noodles dressed in canned soup and baked under a blanket of crushed potato chips and/or American cheese... but I do genuinely like to see the ingenuity of figuring out how to feed a whole family for a few dollars. Plus, if you give me an evening to eat dinner on my own, it's a pretty safe bet I'm trying to engineer a modernized casserole for one... Maybe I'm turning a can of Trader Joe's giant beans into a Mediterranean pot pie or getting ready to dig into a Tater Tot casserole, but I'm probably making something that suggests I appreciate casseroles on more than a "Wow-- Isn't that awful?" level.

The point is, this weekend we're getting a meal from McCall's Casserole Cookbook (food editors of McCall's, 1965). The recipes, though... Well, I'm not in any danger of trying to transform them into my own dinner.


I couldn't decide on one main dish casserole, so we have our choice of two pork-centric casseroles. One is a beauty:


Yes, it's a mud pie with a genuine pastry crust! Bonus: hard cooked egg and olive saucers, and a side of vanilla pudding with paprika.

Okay, it's more like a stuffing pie than a mud pie.


That's right! Ground-Pork Pie with Mushroom Sauce is the official pie for people who like to do a lot of work before checking the calendar. They make the whole batch of stuffing before realizing there's no turkey... and it's April, not Thanksgiving... and hey, it's only a little more work to make a pastry crust and pretend that stuffing is totally intended as a pie filling! Just add some doctored-up canned gravy, and all will be well.

If actively gross rather than weird-and-awkward is your preference, the booklet also offers this:

Yep! It's the infamous casserole that RetroRuth lists as one of the worst things she's ever made. The recipe is from back when, for whatever reason, cookbooks really wanted ham and bananas to be a thing.

Now we need a good (or, more accurately, "good") veggie side dish to go with the pig-centric casserole. If your tastes are like my mom's (supremely bland), there's Carrot-and-Celery Casserole.


No surprise that the title for this one is almost the full list of ingredients. If you want something more exotic, say, in the mushrooms-under-ketchup-whipped-cream direction, there's this beauty:


Sorry, I meant "catsup-whipped-cream."

The casserole book offers dessert casseroles too! There's nothing too terrible, so I thought you might want to see the most 1960s idea in the collection: a new use for boxed pudding mix.


Yep: Pudding Soufflé à la Mode! Cook up the pudding mix, then fold it into a soufflé base, bake it up, and serve with ice cream. I always love the way old recipes will use a mix as a "shortcut" to trim five minutes off a recipe that takes 12 steps and a couple of hours anyway.

Of course, I spend my weekends wrestling cookbooks into submission on an oversize scanner and writing 500+ words about the experience when most people just take one look at grandma's old cookbooks and drop them off at the Goodwill. It's not exactly the best vantage point to question other people's time management skills.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Awkward Family Menus from Grange

It's been a while since we've had a good Grange cookbook.  (Well, it's debatable whether we've ever had a good Grange cookbook. I just meant interesting-- not necessarily objectively good.)

Today we have the not-at-all-awkwardly worded New the Grange Desserts Cookbook Including Creative Homemaking Tips (Favorite Recipes of the Grange, 1973).

Since this is a dessert cookbook, it mostly looks pretty good. It's hard to go too wrong with sugar, butter, and crunchy toasted nuts.

Even Beet Cake, an idea that initially made me cringe at the thought of an even-worse-than-usual fruitcake ended up not being bad:

If it seems familiar, this recipe is getting popular once again as a red velvet alternative for people who don't want to eat a whole bottle of red food coloring with dessert.

The biggest surprise was that this book occasionally has full-color photo spreads of entire meals, ostensibly created to highlight the dessert.

Take in that nice, bright fall spread. All the food-- even the turkey!-- is brighter than the spray of autumn leaves in the background. There's a flower-bedecked citrus basket, walnuts intermingled with tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit, bright orange tangerine "flowers" with cranberry-hued centers.... But after you look at it for a few minutes, doesn't it start to seem a little too matchy-matchy?

What's in this dinner, anyway?

Well, it all starts out with Florida Grapefruit Baskets:


They consist of grapefruits... that are cut into baskets. Hmm.

What's the main course?


It's Roast Turkey with Orange-Rice Stuffing. The one part of the menu that looks like it might have its own separate non-citrus identity is secretly stuffed with orange rice. Of course, we already know the side:

Yep! Baked Tangerines with Orange-Cranberry Relish. (Hot citrus-on-citrus action!)

Now what kind of a dessert do you think this whole menu was designed to highlight?


Apparently, the people at the Grange have never heard of sensory-specific satiety because they think this meal should end with Orange Crepes with (What else?!) Orange Sauce. The picture doesn't show a beverage, but I'm pretty sure the book would recommend serving with an Orange Julius.

I can't leave you with all this matchy-matchy nonsense, so here is a cake from Sally:

I don't know who Sally is, but if her idea of honeymoon fun was making a cake out of beer, white cake mix, and chocolate instant pudding mix, then frosting the whole thing with Wine Cream Frosting, I can't imagine she insisted that she and her dearly beloved had to wear identical outfits and eat citrus five ways at the same meal....

Now thank you for listening while I screamed (screamed screamed screamed screamed screamed) ... 'bout baked tangerines....

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday Lunch Bunch

In case you were just planning on pouring yourself a bowl of cereal for lunch again, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook (ed. Dorothy B. Marsh, 1963) wants you to know there are other options! This book has an extensive menu collection (seasonal, budget, family, couples, krill-based menus for when a whale stops by-- you name it!), including a whole section of menus for family lunch on Saturday.

I honestly love the whimsy of some of them. There are plenty of almost-as-fun-as-a-bowl-of-Sugar Rice Krinkles menus. Saturday could be Pirates' Picnic day:


I'm not exactly sure how peanuts thrown on chicken-with-rice soup is "hidden-treasure," but I'd certainly prefer the peanut "treasure" to the one made of egg salad in the Treasure-Chest Sandwiches. The gelatin is surprisingly sedate, left plain and cubed up into "gems" to go with the nugget cookies. (I'm presuming the cookies are supposed to remind us of gold, rather than chicken, nuggets.)

If you like the water but don't want to encourage the kids to grow up to be dread pirates, there's always Sailors' Choice instead:


I'm not so sure about the Neptune's Nectar (clam chowder) with floating islands of hard-cooked egg, but sailors definitely get better sandwiches (open-face cheese and bacon) and desserts (banana-boat sundaes) than pirates do.

If the rodeo is more the kids' style, there's the Rodeo Day menu:


The Western Egg Sandwiches are unsurprisingly just small Western omelets in sandwiches. My real question is about the Cowboy Chowder. How does one make "beef soup with cereal lassos"? The item I can easily guess is the one with the recipe; the enigmatic one offers no explanation.

If your family is into casual racism, there's the Indian Powwow:


Don't even get me started on the shortcake.

There are even some surprisingly specific menus. Have a weird friend named Molly? Make the For Molly and Me menu.


Of course she likes Tuna Spaghetti over English muffins with cranberry sauce! That's such a Molly thing.

If you're wondering about the Tuna Spaghetti, here's the recipe:


Yeah-- mushrooms, olives, tuna, tomatoes, Parm, and cranberries is a real classic....

If you want the real fun, though, you just can't top Fun for Lunch:


Canned green pea soup with toast and beet, cucumber, carrot, and turnip sticks just screams "We're cutting loose! It's Saturday!" Okay, I can see why this one got the "fun" label... Otherwise, families would tragically live out their lives without ever realizing that this lunch had been fun. (Why it gives a page number for the veggie sticks, I haven't a clue. The "recipe" is to wash the vegetables and cut them into eighth-of-an-inch-thick sticks.)

I hope you've enjoyed these "fun" old menus. Now I've got to try to talk my way out of having lunch with Molly...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

El Molino is Spanish for "The Saddest Baked Goods"

I love me some '70s health-food cookbooks. (You better too, or you are in the wrong place!) That's why I was thrilled to find a precursor to all those paeans to soy and sprouts in an antique mall grab bag:

El Molino Best Recipes was published in 1953 by El Molino Mills in Alhambra, California, to advertise uses for their stone-ground flour and other products (like Cara-Coa, carob powders and candies that were supposed to be "better 'n chocolate").

It is packed with recipes that sound positively scrumptious. You might think it would omit recipes for family favorites like buttery, flaky biscuits out of concern for health, but the company found a way to make them acceptable to the sprouts crowd:


My mouth is just watering at the thought of Wheat and Dry Skim Milk Biscuits, which do not sound at all like arid, marginally-edible hockey pucks.

The people at El Molino were ready to party, too. Need a cake for little Dorothy's birthday?


She'll be sure to flip over her Soya-Applesauce treat, loaded with wheat germ and raisins. (Or maybe she'll run away to Judy's house. Judy gets a marble cake with chocolate icing!)

Of course, there are uses for Cara-Coa too. Need a sneaky way to get out of being roped into bake sales?


Bring Cara-Coa Nugget Cookies and make sure to give away a few free samples. The ladies' club will "forget" to ask for any more contributions after everyone chokes on the "chocolate" chips....

If the thought of all this health food is making you crave a cocktail, you're in luck! El Molino offers this lovely recipe:


Rice Polish Cocktail! Just blend milk with the leftover outer layers of rice, you know, the ones we now normally use for animal feed. If you really want to go wild, throw in some skim milk and carob powders!

I've got to be honest: this book really does make me wish I had a Cara-Coa carob powder tin to show off in my kitchen just because it's so bright and old-timey... But I've got no desire to make any of these recipes.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Should you carrot all?

Is it spring yet? Just about every other day, I have to yell at the sky that snow should be pretty much over by April, but the only discernible effect is that the neighbors cut a slightly wider path around me than usual. Well, I guess the yelling is good for something....

Anyway, today I'm bringing in a bit of veggie sunshine based on the April produce recommendations of Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar (1962). April is carrot month.

Well, it's carrot and pineapple month if we look at the featured veggie and fruit, and my perusal of carrot recipes found they were often teamed up with their favorite fruit, even outside of the typical carrot cake. There's this springtime classic from Better Homes & Gardens Salad Book (1958):


Gotta love the pineapple-tidbit-and-green-pepper flower! Fresh out of the fridge, it's a bit warmer than the daffodils outside.


If the weather leaves you wanting the carrots and pineapple warm, Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers Vegetables Including Fruits (1966) offers some pretty straightforward carrot/pineapple casseroles, like this one:


This is a 4-5 pound casserole, so people better like it!

Now that Easter is over and people are desperately trying to use up the last of their leftover hard cooked eggs, the carrot and hard-cooked eggs dishes might be more appropriate than the pineapple pairings. If you're a fan of the random-foods-mashed-together genre of salads, this recipe from Favorite Recipes of America Salads Including Appetizers (1968) might be your new jam:


I know my mouth always waters when I think about grated carrots, chopped celery, diced eggs, and "rolled" soda crackers coated in peanut butter and salad dressing.

Wait... I think I mean that I'm sad about the waste of perfectly good peanut butter.
For lovers of good old-fashioned ring molds, the home ec teachers offer this beauty:


If mashed carrots bound with eggs and bread crumbs, then served under a béchamel sauce with hard cooked eggs sounds bland, take heart: "Additional seasonings may be added with the eggs." What constituted seasoning in this context, I'm not sure, but I'll guess maybe oregano?

If your heart belongs to the canned cream-of-something soup casseroles, the teachers have a hard-boiled-egg-and-carrot recipe for you too:


With its reliance on a can of soup, cheese, tiny measures of onion and green pepper for flavor, and eggs for protein, this recipe seems like the textbook example of a money-saving, pantry-emptying mid-century recipe. No wonder the teachers loved it...

And if your tastes run to the inedible monstrosity in Jell-O (rather than the adorable, sweet pineapple flower on Jell-O) variety, I have one final recipe for you from Better Homes and Gardens. Sorry, it doesn't include hard-cooked eggs, but I'm sure you could chuck some in anyway, and they would be just as at home as anything else.

When orange juice and gelatin are rubbing elbows with cabbage and carrots while surrounded by pears who suspect they've showed up at the wrong party and aren't sure how to make a quick exit before the pickles make eye contact, well, nobody's comfortable.

"Yeah, guys, we've... uh... got this work thing, so we better head out early..."

*Pears begin backing into the late-arriving hard-cooked eggs, just off camera.*

Things are about to get really interesting in Carrot-'n-Cabbage Tower! Tune in next week when the pickles figure out what the hard cooked eggs have been up to when nobody was watching....

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Rut-in' for spring? Baga-in' for spring? Can't find a good, clear rutabaga pun....

It's April! That means it's time to go Gourmet again:

Welcome back the 1977 magazine that mostly focused on travel, but remembered to include recipes since its name was Gourmet. The cover actually puts food front and center for once, although this photo is also part of the issue's attempt to get readers to go on a gourmet holiday to Bath, England. 

I was shocked to see a somewhat playful entry in this month's issue, as an Easter dinner featured a rice pilaf (spiked with currants and pine nuts) molded into an egg shape. I assumed that actually molding food into seasonally-appropriate shapes was a little too pedestrian for this magazine, but even Gourmet must have felt the need to do something special for the kiddies. (At least, for the kiddies who'd eat currants and pine nuts in their rice.)

Easter's over in 2018, though, and I was more interested in the article on rutabagas.

Next to more run-of-the-mill recipes like rutabaga and carrot soup, I found this entry:


Rutabaga Pudding! (Sorry the part near the center didn't scan well. Most of it is easy enough to figure out, but the cook time is 45 minutes, and you're supposed to serve it with meat.) This is not pudding in the sense of being a dessert (I hope!), but more in Yorkshire pudding territory. 

If you do want a rutabaga-centric dessert, the magazine still has you covered with a recipe for Rutabaga Pie:

Sorry it's a picture instead of a scan, but it was in the middle and wouldn't scan well. I cut off the beginning, which is just instructions for prebaking a pâte brisée crust, but at least you can see the filling in all its rutabaga-and-apple-purée with brown sugar, coriander, and cinnamon glory. 

I am not sure what this would taste like, but a small part of me wonders if I shouldn't have saved this for the Pieathalon....

It's good to know that even Gourmet got a little crazy with its pies sometimes. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Big Surprise: For General Foods, Easter = Jell-O

The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook (the Women of General Foods Kitchens, second edition, 1959) sends Bonnie Bunny to wish us a hoppy Easter!


Okay, I made up Bonnie's name, but I like her perseverance in decorating an egg that's nearly as big as she is, even though one of her legs is clearly misshapen and waaay longer than the other. Plus, she insists on using a palette to mix her paints, even though she's only got spring green. She means business!

What does Bonnie suggest for a special springtime meal? Well, it depends on whether you're a kid or a grownup. If you're a kid, Bonnie thinks you should get ready for eating all that Easter candy by preloading some sugar:


Can you guess what kind of a salad a Bunny Salad might be? If you guessed it's like chicken salad, but made out of rabbit, I like your sense of humor, but you're not thinking like a '50s children's salad maker.

Of course Bunny Salads are excuses for eating Jell-O and not having to call it dessert. The salad molds are filled with carroted pineapple and served on lettuce, so the marshmallow bits used to turn them into bunnies certainly don't turn this into dessert.

Okay, Strip Sandwiches are open to interpretation, as there is no recipe. Let's just assume that it's a kids' favorite, like PB&J, cut into strips. Similarly, Lime Pears are left to our imaginations, but I'm kind of wondering if this is code for canned pears in lime Jell-O-- a meal featuring two canned fruits in desserty gelatin.

Then for dessert (because all the other sugar has been in salad form so it doesn't count!), there are Rainbow-Witches. If I didn't know the term was from a '50s cookbook, I'd hope it referred to witches getting ready to lead the gay pride parade for supernatural entities.

In this case, it's just chocolate wafers sandwiched around dyed Dream Whip and frozen.

Once the kids wash that all down with some nice chocolate milk, they should be ready to tear into their jelly beans, marshmallow peeps, and chocolate bunnies!

The grownups aren't expected to dine on carroty Jell-O themselves. They get their own menu, which, like the children's, is convenient to make ahead.


Yeah, the "like the children's" bit is meant as foreshadowing. If you suspected it might suggest that the grownups were supposed to eat Jell-O too, you were right. The lobster salad, unlike the bunny salad, contains its namesake ingredient:


But it gets served in what many would now consider a crime against avocados:


The adults get their lemon Jell-O filled with pimiento and avocado, then topped with lobster salad. Yay?

The side of potato chips is made a bit more elegant by the book's insistence that they be heated. (Can you imagine arranging gelatin-avocado rings topped with lobster salad on the buffet table just before pulling a tray full of gently-warmed potato chips out of the oven? Easter in General Foods-Land must have been a real hoot!)

The dessert of Easter Ricotta Pie sounds comfortingly cheesecake-like:

Of course, it's filled with Grape-Nuts and candied fruit, so don't get too excited.

Happy Easter! I'm sure you're disappointed that I posted these recipes too late to make for the holiday, but there's always next year. 😄

Now go put on your best referee shirt and trade eggs with your mom (Don't mention her overly bendy arm!) while your siblings dig around in the furniture.