Monday, July 22, 2013

Holy Huacamole Salad!

Ahhh......summer.....time for a Mexican-inspired meal of make-your-own taco bar, chips and guac, right? In 2013 that plays just fine....sixty years ago, however, there was a different interpretation of what made a quick summer supper. I seem to recall the infatuation with Polynesian-inspired dishes, SPAM being one of them, so imagine my surprise to find a recipe for Huacamole Salad in the Notebook! On a page near the way-back, Grandma clipped a handful of first-prize recipes from some Indianapolis recipe contest. I noticed she only clipped the FIRST PRIZE winners, there are no second or third places to be seen. Not only is Huacamole freaking out my spell checker right now BUT the prize-winning recipe also had some freaky ingredients AND a forwarding address which I am totally going to Google in a moment. But first, see below:

Huacamole Salad -- Mrs. G. S. Wickler, 2634 W. 21st St, Indianapolis

First Prize

2 large avacados
1 small green onion grated
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

Mash avocados with solver fork. Add all other ingredients.

According to Google Earth, Mrs. Wickler lived close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and her home was built in 1949. It's a modest 832 square-foot, two-bedroom home (still standing and in decent shape) but did Mrs. Wickler know her avocados? Winning first prize may very well have been the highlight of a decade for her!

I wondered the popularity of avocados in this post-war era, when were they introduced and how were they prepared. According to Wikipedia, avocados were officially marketed to the American public in the 1940s by the California Avocado Advisory Board with their campaign, “Say Huakamole”. However, recipes for the fruit appear as early as 1886 when it was known as "Alligator Pear" ( As far as preparation goes, the recipes I found smushed the avocado with everything from grapes (1934, L.A. Times) to Parmesan Cheese (1952, Trader Vic's). Was Mrs. Wickler's recipe going to be a spoiler or a success? 

I hauled out a silver fork from the silver service Grandma gave us as a wedding gift fifteen years ago and started mashing. I was not sure about the silver fork but I assumed it had something to do with the avocado's tendency to turn brown when cut. Next, I attempted to GRATE a single green onion. That lasted about five seconds before I ran my chef's knife through it instead. Celery, really? I stayed true to Mrs. Wickler and pulverized a cup of celery and threw it in. Red pepper sauce? I though of Tabasco Brand but we didn't have any so a 1/2 teaspoon of the Trader Joe's version went in. Mayo? Huh? I suppose it is the equivalent to the sour cream I see in current guac recipes but it seems so, well, old. 

I mushed, smushed and tumbled the green mass into a period candlewick bowl, popped in a spoon and grabbed the tortilla chips. Mmmmm.....guacamole.....good. I mean, REALLY good. Yes, really! Despite the celery and the mayo the guac had a cool, creamy well-seasoned taste and texture. It was indeed spot-on with the garlic and hot sauce. I had to show restraint and not eat the entire bowl. Besides, I still had to see if the silver fork had anything to do with preventing oxidation. I pressed plastic wrap onto the top of the remaining guac and chilled it in the fridge overnight. 

At lunch the next day I was pleasantly surprised to see the guac only browned a bit at the very top but the underside was still bright green -- even without saving the pit. After a second day in the fridge the guac really was dicey in terms of color but the flavor was still good. Not sure I'll grab for the silver each time I cook with avocados but it's at least an option. Ole!

Soup Can Score -- FIVE out of FIVE Soup Cans!!

Note: When grabbing for the silver in the silver chest, a pink, embossed note tumbled from behind the silver was a letter from Grandma! I'd completely forgotten about the note and I was so glad I'd kept it with the silver service....the note was from fifteen years ago concerning the contents of the silver chest and the pattern, Joan of Arc. The meat fork is the one I used for mashing the avocados. Love it!


There are 8 sterling place settings: knife, fork, salad fork, spoon and soup or dessert.
Also the sugar shell, buffet butter spreader, gravy are sterling.
The two large buffet serving spoons have sterling handles but stainless bowls.
The small plain sterling spoon was given to me by my step-mother when she was born in May, 1893.
The meat fork is silver plate and made in 1904 (Wildrose).
Hope you enjoy "Joan of Arc",

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ham and Noodle Casserole

Straight from the Ladies' Pages....

Less time in the kitchen means more time in the garden or on the golf course or beach. Housewives who are racking their brains for time-saving dishes will welcome this casserole that may be prepared for baking early in the day.

To make it, cook one-half pound of noodles in two quarts of boiling water to which two teaspoons of salt has been added. When the noodles are tender, drain them well.

Melt two tablespoons of fat in a saucepan, stir in one tablespoon of flows to make a smooth paste. Make stock by dissolving two bouillon cubes in two cups of boiling water, add and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture in thickened. Season with one-half teaspoon of salt and one-half teaspoon of pepper.

Dice one-half pound of cooked ham and mix with the noodles. Add the thickened stock and pout the mixture into a greased casserole. Crush three-fourths cup crisp rice cereal and spread over the top. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of melted butter and a dash of paprika. Place the dish in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit) and bake for 20 minutes. 

So the fact that I could spend time doing something else besides cooking dinner is what drew me to this recipe. I loved the three alternatives given -- garden, golf course, or beach. Grandma most definitely would have chosen the garden -- not the golf course or beach. For me? Garden, beach or tennis court!

On a busy Monday I began this quick dinner at 4:30 p.m. with planned side dishes of split peas, marinated veggie salad and fruit. Rule #1 of modern cooking -- always put the water on to boil first before starting any prep. It was about 80 degrees that day and definitely toasty in the kitchen. Before too long I had the water boiling, the split peas simmering, and the fat (I chose butter) and flour cooked into a smooth paste. It's not every day I have three burners simultaneously firing on the stove if it's not a national holiday.

Bouillon cubes are NOT a part of my well-stocked kitchen and never will be. I had some vegetable stock ready in the fridge and figured two cups of that would equal the two cubes minus the sodium load. The resulting slurry reminded me of gravy-making and it came together rather quickly. I added the ham and dumped the lot into a round soufflé dish greased with cooking spray ( I know....). I added the "Crisp Rice", dotted it with butter and dashed on smoked Hungarian paprika for glamour. Into the oven!

My split peas simmered away, salad marinated and the twenty minutes went quickly and soon we were at the table by 6:00.
 Wait. 6:00? An hour and a half? I can bang out a dinner in 30 minutes on a normal night. If this is a time-saver....well, anyway, it had better be good. And good? Yes it was. The casserole was flavorful and rich in a comfort-food sort of way. MCL Cafeteria came to mind for me and Max declared the dish a "thumbs up". He also added that we should have this dish at every holiday meal...with hot dogs (?). However, when Max asked what was all the "crunchy stuff" on top we all decided the Crisp Rice cereal was a bit strange. Croutons or seasoned breadcrumbs would have sufficed.

The concepts of this dish were sound and fairly easy and I saw myself using leftover Thanksgiving turkey and varying the "gravy" as it were. Mmmm.....nooodles....goood.....

Soup Can Score -- Four and a Half out of Five

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pecan Squares

Time for a summer take-a-long for your picnics and parties and, of course, I mean dessert. Grandma had a self-proclaimed sweet tooth and it's evident in the notebook. Today's recipe shares real estate with  Fruit Rocks, Orange Cookies, Chocolate Drop Cookies, and Royal Butterscotch Cake. Written in fountain pen in Grandma's neat hand, the recipe for Pecan Squares is not a clipping from the usual "ladies' pages" but from a presumed friend or relative, Alice Johnson in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The recipe for Pecan Squares had immediate appeal as I prepared for the Fourth of July -- the simple ingredients were on hand, the finished dish would be portable and interesting (hopefully) to the parade-goers at the annual LaPorte, Indiana Parade.

Pecan Squares -- Alice Johnson, St. Paul, Minnesota

2 eggs
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans (Kate used 1/2 cup nuts & 1/2 cup oatmeal)

Spread 1/2 in thick
Bake at 350 about 25 minutes. 8x8 pan. 325

I am not sure who Kate is but I followed her amendment to the recipe -- half old-fashioned rolled oats and half chopped pecans. I was tempted to throw in a handful of chocolate chips as well but I figured I'd stay true to the written recipe for now.

The batter came together easily, no mixer required, but I did make sure to thoroughly beat the eggs with a wire whisk to be sure everything would successfully incorporate. After all, there is no liquid in the recipe except the two eggs. I smushed the resulting dough into an 8x8 foil pan greased with cooking spray and baked it at 325 (to be safe) for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes the dough was not quite done in the middle so I cranked the heat back up to the original 350 for ten more minutes. The squares were then done -- edges pulling away from the sides of the pan, the middle passed the toothpick test. I bammed the pan with powdered sugar (why not?), cut into 16 small squares and packed them for the next day's events.

At the parade I presented the Pecan Squares and with the mere mention of the recipe's name I received immediate feedback -- friend Kristin's mom declared Pecan Squares to be delicious and she knew the exact recipe. Interesting! Perhaps this was a hidden gem in the notebook -- a proven tried and true that has transcended generations?

One bite and I knew the answer....chewy, caramelized flavor...the crunch of the pecans plus the substance of the oats....I knew I had a winner. A quick pass around the group and the pan was quickly downsized to murmurs of praise. The bars also were not too sweet -- a developed trend I've seen in the notebook -- but just right. This is easily in the permanent file and next time I'll add chocolate chips.

Soup Can Score -- FIVE cans out of five!