Sunday, September 16, 2012

Crunchy Apple Dessert

Happy Fall! Though the Fall season doesn't technically begin until next week, Fall was in the air this weekend. Football, a trip to the apple orchard, perfect weather and a bonfire -- a recipe for fun.

With my fridge fully stocked with apples (Michigan ones.....the local orchard lost 70% of their crop this year to inclement weather)  I began the first in a series of apple-related notebook recipes. Today's installment is a hand-written recipe at the bottom of a well-splattered page. Whether or not Grandma ever made this one I don't know but it was worth a try.

Crunchy Apple Dessert 

1 cup sugar
1 T flour
1 t baking powder
2 eggs, separated
1 cup diced apples
1 cup nut meats
1 t vanilla
1/4 t salt

Sift dry ingredients. Add well-beaten yolks, diced apple, nuts, salt, and vanilla. Mix well. Carefully fold in beaten egg whites. Bake slowly, 1 hr. 350.

Upon the first read I figured this dessert would come out cobbler-like. At the store I stocked up on vanilla frozen yogurt and cool whip as accompaniments, the rest I had on hand.

Sift dry ingredients -- sift sugar? Ok, if the recipe says so. There was only 1 tablespoon of flour listed plus the salt and baking powder, in the sieve it went with the sugar. Done. One cup of apple? I put in a bit more, two apples total. One cup nut meats? I chose pecans and I coarsely chopped them. On to the eggs. I found the egg white thing to be strange but I dutifully hauled out the stand mixer and whipped the egg whites until soft peaks formed and yes, I carefully folded them into the rest of the ingredients listed. The batter came together nice -- oops -- almost forgot the vanilla. No pan size was listed so I pulled out a Pyrex pie plate, lightly coated it with cooking spray. Did they have that in the early 50s? No time to research that. Into the oven.

I napped on the porch. I awoke to the fragrant apple-pie-type-smell and took the dish out of the oven, nicely browned.

After dinner, moment of truth. I scooped the dessert into bowls and topped with vanilla frozen yogurt. Would it pass the test?

Crunchy Apple Dessert

Sadly, no. The taste was slightly confusing. Was it a cobbler or pecan pie? The nutty taste and the lack of apples really put it into the pecan-pie-with-no-crust category. If you are a fan, this might be a recipe for you but for me the texture was palatable, made light with the addition of the beaten egg whites, but nothing outstanding. The apples sort of disintegrated and it lacked the hearty apple substance I was looking for. No problem. There are plenty more apples in the drawer!

Soup Can Score -- One out of Five Soup Cans

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Graham Bread

Happy Sunday all!

Today's item is called Graham Bread submitted by the very ambitious home cook, Mrs. Jesse Anderson. This particular clipping is from the column titled "A Little Bit of Everything", a column Grandma seemed to enjoy for there are dozens pasted in the notebook. Mrs. Anderson evidently submitted everything within the entire column for the tag line reads "Our thanks to Mrs. Jesse Anderson for the entire column". With all of her likely chores, Mrs. Anderson still had time to sit down and prepare a submission? The first recipe listed is Graham Bread, then White Cake (Inexpensive), Caramels, and an epic tome titled "How to Preserve a Husband". More on that later.

Now that fall is in the air, I chose Graham Bread to accompany a hearty Sunday vegetable soup. I liked the recipe did not call for yeast (yes!) and I happened to have graham flour on hand. It was meant to be.

Graham Bread

(1 large loaf or two small)
1 pint sour milk ( or 1/2 cup sour cream and 1 1/2 cups sour milk)
1 teaspoon salt
2 level teaspoons soda
1 cup sugar (scant)
2 cups graham flour (level)
1 cup white flour (level)

Nuts and raisins can be added if desired but very good without. Bake in bread pan in slow oven until thoroughly done 30 to 40 minutes (350 oven)

Like many of the clipped recipes in Grandma's notebook it is understood the home cook has a working knowledge of the proper sequence for the ingredients listed plus the appropriate technique. I have a clue for the most part -- like dry ingredients in baked good are usually incorporated into the liquid ingredients -- so I hauled out the mixer and started gathering ingredients.

With everything lined up on the kitchen counter I noticed there was no egg in the recipe. Interesting. How would the bread rise with no egg or yeast? Then I remembered my mom's recipe for an Irish Soda Bread where the acidity of buttermilk (or clabbered milk) reacts with salt and baking soda to provide loft. I ran to my card file and pulled it out -- sure enough the recipes were practically identical. I now knew how to proceed. No mixer necessary!

First I adjusted my pan size. The Irish soda bread mom makes fills a two-quart casserole, certainly not a loaf pan. That's why Mrs. Anderson said her recipe makes two loaves -- two full-size bread pans that is! I combined first all of the dry ingredients and a cup of golden raisins (better for baking than traditional ones, in my opinion) but no nuts. I then dumped the entire pint of buttermilk over the whole thing and I folded the batter just enough to make a moist dough. Into a greased Pyrex casserole it went and into the oven for 30 minutes. After 30, the toothpick test failed. Still doughy. No prob. Back in for 7 more minutes and this time  = success. From the other room Max inquired about the smell and asked if he could have some. Yep -- as soon as it cooled! I turned the huge loaf onto a cooling rack and then we sliced off an end....warm, fragrant, and hearty.

Later, with the bread accompanying the veggie soup, we slathered it with butter and I personally polished off two more pieces. Mmmm....the three of us declared it a success!!

Soup Can Score -- Five out of Five Soup Cans

This recipe will be a permanent fixture in our repertoire. Homemade, fresh bread with no preservatives in under an hour? You bet!

In this salute to Mrs. Jesse Anderson I share with you her essay on how "preserve" a husband -- and a lucky guy he is indeed. Read on:

How to Preserve a Husband

Be careful in your selection, do not choose too young and take only such varieties as have been reared in a good moral atmosphere. When once decided upon and selected, let that part remain forever settled, and give your entire thought to preparation for domestic use. Some insist in keeping them in a pickle, while others are constantly getting them into hot water. Even poor varieties may be made sweet, tender and good by garnishing them with patience, well sweetened with smiles and flavored with kisses to taste; then wrap them well in a mantle of charity, keep warm in a steady file of devotion and serve with peaches and cream. When thus prepared, they will keep for years. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Three Labor Day Meals

Happy Labor Day!

A time to reflect on the labors of the America Worker and the inherent struggles -- past, present, and future. My "labor" today is a different kind of work -- within the job description and apron of the 1950s   housewife.

Grandma's notebook includes several of the Daily News' Cooking School columns penned by the 1950s cooking expert, Mary Starr (see blog about sandwich spreads). Within these columns are printed menu suggestions for the day, presumably to give the woman of the house some ideas for the week. Menu suggestions are always entertaining to read but I personally have never cooked ANY preprinted menus (not even a Martha Stewart menu!) for a myriad of reasons....mainly time.

So how much TIME did a typical 50s woman spend in the kitchen each day? Around 20 hours a week.  Today's woman spends an average of 35 hours at her JOB in the 2000s....married women who don't work spend an average of two hours in the kitchen each day. Women who do work and women who are in higher income brackets spend from 45 to 30 minutes cooking each day. Let's see where my Labor Day stacks up.

The Daily News
Cooking School 
by Mary Starr

Menus for Thursday

Orange Juice
Crisp Rice Cereal
Poached egg on Tost
Frizzled Ham
Coffee, milk

Frankfurters with Sauerkraut
Green Bean Salad
Hard Rolls
Lemon Tarts
Milk, tea

Rice meat balls
Tomato Sauce
Buttered Noodles
Broccoli with Hollandaise Sauce
Pumpernickle Bread
Date Whip

7:00 a.m. Rise and shine. Coffee. Paper. Porch.
7:40 a.m. Putting away all of yesterday's dishes still in the drainer. Begin breakfast menu.

The first thing I notice is the absence of fresh fruit. Well, orange juice, but no fruit. Not sure from what season this menu might be. I fill the saucepan with water, bring it up to a simmer for the eggs. I have whole wheat bread of the toast, ham slices for the frizzled ham which, by the way, is just ham fried up in a pan until it kind of curls up around the edges. According to the internet, frizzled ham is usually made with lunch meat. I have ham slices on hand so no fried bologna here. Crisp Rice cereal? Yup. Plus Max gets the cocoa kind -- lucky guy. Poached eggs -- I remember the vinegar trick and I dump some in just before the eggs. I crack the eggs into a cup and roll them into the simmering water just like you see on TV. But they don't coagulate right away and the water looks more like egg-drop soup. Ick. Then as I let the pan simmer for a few minutes they take shape. I drain them on paper towels and plop them onto the buttered toast. Perfect! Whew!

8:00 a.m. Eating the breakfast. Quite good. And in only 20 minutes! Just imagine if I'd had to actually fix my hair and put on clothes and makeup beforehand....Would have had to get up at 6:00 a.m. on a holiday. No good.
Labor Day Breakfast

9:40 a.m. Begin lemon tarts for lunch in between laundry, a jigsaw puzzle, and locating the play-doh bin. I remember seeing a post on the web from a lady saying she remembers her own mother cooking one meal and then immediately beginning the next one. I understand the feeling.

The lemon tarts are a short-cut recipe I found online....pie crust rounds into mini-muffin pans, top with a lemon pudding mix with garnish on top. They had boxed lemon pudding back then so I figured why not? Max and I cut the pie crust dough into rounds, tamp the rounds into the greased muffin cups and bake at 450 for 7 min. We mix the 4-serving size box instant lemon pudding with one cup milk. Next, the zest on one lemon for good measure (thanks to Max for zesting). After the shells cool I fill them up with the lemon mixture and top each with a blueberry. Done! Max gets the leftover dough scraps to play with. It's a win-win. Into the fridge the tarts go until lunch.
Lemon Tarts

10:10 a.m. Wash kitchen floor with ammonia water. Long overdue -- had to be done.
10:30 a.m. Kitchen closed

12:00 p.m. Begin to prepare lunch. Yikes! John reminds me he has football today so lunch has to be served STAT, he wants to leave by 1:00. I whirl around the kitchen and start the green bean salad first. I have a pound of fresh garden green beans from our yard so this is an easy one. Steam them for 6 min, shock in cold water, add a pint of cherry tomatoes (also homegrown), a cucumber and slices of red onion. A few glugs of olive oil and juice of a lemon (Max juices it for me), salt and pepper. Done. Frankfurters and kraut? I throw them in all in a pan with a bit of water and let it simmer. The hard rolls are courtesy of the Target bakery and though the menu called for milk and tea I skip both. Water is nature's best hydrator.
12:35 p.m. EAT. John is lucky I can cook as quickly as I do. I feel like Rachael Ray with a 30-min meal! The recipes were all quite good though it feels funny to have a "hot" lunch, like I was at a cafeteria or something. The green bean salad is quite good and the lemon tarts are good but I would have preferred a lemon curd rather than a lemon pudding.

Labor Day Lunch

1:10 p.m. Finished cleaning up kitchen. Whew. Siesta? Not yet. I look at the dinner menu and remember to make the Date Whip. This recipe was a mystery to me but not the lady who collects the recipes from the backs of old, vintage packages -- including the back of a box of dates! Visit her at:

Max strolls in as I am whipping egg whites and adding the allspice and vanilla. He crushes a cup of graham crackers for me and we combine all of it with a cup of freshly-whipped cream. We take a taste -- decidedly different but very good! Tastes like a spice cookie or gingerbread. VERY sweet. Yum! Into the fridge 'til later. 

1:36 p.m. Run the dishwasher with all the day's dishes in it. Sit to write this blog. 
2:45 p.m. Siesta
3:15 p.m. Outside to play
4:30 p.m. Lego. I build a campground for Harry Potter and a few of his friends.
5:00 p.m. Cook dinner. I start with the meatballs. I actually have a recipe in my personal box for a ground beef and rice meatball with a tomato sauce so why not? They are called Porcupine Meatballs and they have a sauce made with tomato soup that I remember as a child. Pretty good stuff! I grab an extra lean beef, mix it with garlic, onion, parboiled rice, 1/4 cup tomato soup and an egg. It made 16 meatballs that I browned in EVOO on the stove. They stick to the pan but eventually release as they cook longer. I add water, the rest of the soup and yellow mustard to make a simmering sauce. The meatballs simmered for 20 minutes. Next -- tackle the hollandaise sauce. 

On the web there are loads of hollandaise recipes. Most are loaded with egg yolks and butter. I only needed to make a small quantity so I decided to make modifications. One yolk, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and a squirt of Dijon mustard. I ignore Tyler Florence and his double boiler, I also ignore other suggestions to haul out food processors, blenders, and immersion blenders. Nope. Going commando here. I simply whip the yolk and lemon juice to emulsify and then I slowly add the butter and lastly the mustard. It doesn't break at the low temperature. Hot water thins it as it thickens too much. Authentic? Maybe not but it works. 

Buttered noodles? Easy. Pumpernickle bread? Pepperidge Farm, thank you. I even butcher a watermelon and Max and I call it dinner. John is not home from football so I make him a bento box of  homemade goodness for tomorrow. The menu calls for coffee. Nope, not me. When I've cooked like it's Thanksgiving I go for the Malbec. Yum. 

Max and I dine on the porch with the fading evening light glowing on our family table. Max says it's the best meal ever. I agree. I think Grandma would too. 

7:00 p.m. DONE

How much time did I spend in the kitchen today? Just a hair under 5 hours. Yikes. And our Grandmothers used to do this EVERY DAY? A sobering thought. However, the nice thing about today is I feel full all day long. No snacking for me, not even a thought of snacking. The meals are balanced (except fruit??), a bit carb-heavy with the starches and desserts but calorie wise, not too bad. John and I run the stats and breakfast clocks in around 550 calories, lunch also around 550. Dinner? Not quite sure but around 850 -- 900 calories. That puts me around 2000 for the day. Not exactly weight loss territory but not overreaching, either. I enjoy the challenge....and another bonus presents itself -- all the yummy comfort food with my family? Priceless.