Author Archives for Shawna

First Monday Menu: Chop Suey and Strawberry Shortcake

After a long April full of deadlines, I am back to blogging with May’s First Monday Menu.

Origin stories are varied, but chop suey seems to have been invented by Chinese Americans in the late 1800s. According to Wikipedia, E.N. Anderson, an anthropologist specializing in Chinese Food, traced chop suey to a similarly named Chinese dish meaning “miscellaneous leftovers”. This fits with the dish’s use during WWII.

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In my research, chop suey pops up everywhere. It’s in cookbooks, magazine articles, and product advertising. All recipes are similar and flexible. I’m assuming it was a popular dish for using up odds and ends in the pantry. The recipe I used today came from a chapter full of suggestions on cooking with meat during shortages and rationing. Numerous recipes using leftovers are suggested, including the chop suey you see here.

I chose this particular recipe because I think it showcases the flexibility of the dish. It’s from What Do We Eat Now? A Guide to Wartime Housekeeping by Helen Robertson, Sarah MacLeod, and Frances Preston. It was published in 1942. It’s a fantastic look at how changes were affecting home front housewives’ daily lives. I am always impressed by the ingenuity and bravery of women facing numerous challenges to running a smooth household.

What Do We Eat Now? suggests using a green salad and a fruit dessert to create a meal. I added a simple salad and strawberry shortcake. My pictures show ranch dressing on the salad. I want to point out that ranch dressing was not invented until the early 1950s, so it’s not technically accurate here. I used frozen strawberries and angel food cake for our strawberry shortcake. A variety of strawberry shortcake recipes existed in early 1940s cookbooks, so home front housewives were definitely serving this dessert during war years, especially if they grew their own strawberries in their Victory Gardens.

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Chop Suey

  • 2 c shredded meat
  • 2 tbsp fat
  • 1 c fresh OR one can mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/4 c sliced onion
  • 2 c shredded celery
  • 1/2 c shredded green pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 can bean sprouts OR 2 c cooked shredded green beans
  • 1 1/2 c sliced uncooked radishes
  • soy sauce

Prepare meat. You may use cooked pork, turkey, veal, beef, chicken, or duck. If there isn’t enough, add a small amount of ham or freshly cooked meat. (Note: You can choose to use all freshly cooked meat, but this recipe was specifically for using leftovers.) Melt fat in pan. Saute onion, green pepper, and celery. Cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, usually about 6 or 7 minutes. Blend in the flour. Add bean sprouts (or green beans), meat, and radishes. Heat. Season well. Serve over rice or fried noodles.

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Results

I like that this recipe shows how you can use whatever meat you have available and that some of the other ingredients are optional or may be switched out for something else. I think this recipe could be adapted to fit any vegetables you have on hand, as well.

My family was a little uncertain about trying chop suey, but I wanted to test it since I see it in so many different places in my research.  Everyone enjoyed it. Even my toddler loved this one. It was surprisingly flavorful and definitely filling. We used shredded chicken, green beans, and rice, but I think this would be just as good with turkey or beef served over noodles. I make sure all of my kids go to college armed with an arsenal of easy to make recipes. Chop suey will be a useful addition.

Let me know if you try a version of chop suey.

Have a great week!

 

First Monday Menu: Chicken a la King and Sour Cream Cocoa Cake with Mocha Frosting

This month’s menu comes from the 1940 edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book. This is a great cookbook from the beginning of our wartime period. I like comparing cookbooks from 1940 to cookbooks from later in the war years. Most of the later ones include advice and recipes for cooking and entertaining while dealing with rationing and shortages. Many also include recipes and tips for the working woman.

Today’s entree is a recipe many people still make today. We served our chicken a la king over spaghetti. You can also substitute salmon for the chicken.

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Chicken a la King

  • 2 c cooked diced chicken
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • green pepper, minced
  • pimiento, cut in thin strips
  • 1 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 c chicken stock or milk
  • 1 c sour cream or evaporated milk
  • 4 tsp sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter, add the peppers and mushrooms, and saute until light yellow. Lift out. Blend the flour with the seasoned butter. Add the chicken stock and cook until thickened. Add the chicken, and when it’s hot, add the cream combined with the beaten egg yolks and the mushrooms, pepper, and pimiento. Add the sherry and serve immediately. Don’t cook after adding the egg yolks because the mixture may curdle. You can stand it over hot water if needed. You can also use 1 can of red salmon, boned and skinned.

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Results

This was very filling, but also a bit bland. While we were eating we discussed what we would do differently, and we all agreed the chicken should have been seasoned more. Adding some garlic and using cream of mushroom soup for part of the liquid were other suggestions. I looked up a couple modern versions of this recipe and found that the 1940 recipe and the 2019 recipes were almost identical, so perhaps we are just fans of spicier food in my family. Overall, it was good, but not something I can see myself making again.

Sour Cream Cocoa Cake

  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 3/4 c boiling water
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg whites

Mix cocoa in boiling water and stir mixture until smooth. Cool. Cream shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add cocoa mixture to creamed mixture. Sift flour, salt, and soda together. Add dry ingredients alternately with cream to the first mixture. Beat until smooth after each addition. Add vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into pans lined with waxed paper and bake in a moderate oven (350°F) for 30 minutes. Makes 2 (9 in) layers. Spread Mocha Frosting between layers and on top.

Mocha Frosting

  • 1 1/2 tsp Mocha extract or strong coffee
  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3/4 c chopped nuts

Mix the extract or coffee with the sugar and stir into the water, gradually, smoothing out the lumps. After the frosting is spread on the cake, 3/4 c chopped nuts may be sprinkled over the top.

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Results

I feel like this cake was playing an April Fool’s Day joke on us. The top layer broke. The frosting was extra runny and either soaked into the cake or slipped right off the cake stand and onto the counter. We had to make a double batch of the frosting to have enough. It was also fairly time-consuming with lots of steps involved in the cake itself. I was worried about how it’d taste.

I shouldn’t have worried. It was delicious. It was moist and milk chocolatey, and definitely filling. The frosting had a very mild mocha flavor and was more like a glaze than a frosting. The cake was so wonderful, though, that a heavier frosting would have been too much. We’ll definitely make this one again.

I hope the weather has been kind to you this week. Let me know if you try any of these recipes!

 

 

Spiced Apple Toddy

This is just a quick post today to help you through any chilly weather you might be experiencing. My kids call this “fancy cider”. Enjoy!

The current weather across much of the United States is cold and snowy right now. At my house, we have been battling rain and sand storms for the past week. I thought many of you might appreciate a warm treat, and this is one that you might already have the ingredients in your pantry. I’ve made many similar recipes, but this particular one is from the 1943 cookbook Double-Quick Cooking for Part-time Homemakers by Ida Bailey Allen.

Notes:

I’ve also used packaged cider mix combined with water, cloves, and lemon juice to make “fancy cider”. This works fine. It just isn’t as attractive as using the lemon slices. It’s a great option, though, when it’s cold outside and you don’t want to leave the house to buy a lemon.

Spiced Apple Toddy

Ingredients


4 c sweet cider or apple juice
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 lemon

Directions


Heat cider, cloves, and half the lemon sliced to a boil. Strain into cups, and serve with thin slices of fresh lemon, each stuck with two cloves.

First Monday Menu: Ham Baked with Orange Slices

My husband recently had surgery. His recovery is tough, so we have been hunting for quick and easy meals to cook. I thought I’d find a WWII meal that fits the bill for this month’s First Monday Menu.

The ham recipe I used is from the 1943 cookbook Double-Quick Cooking for Part-time Homemakers by Ida Bailey Allen. I’m fascinated with this cookbook right now. It was aimed at single working women and wives who worked while their husbands were at war. There are menus with quick recipes and detailed instructions for creating the meal as efficiently as possible. The author gives tips for meal planning and avoiding food waste, as well as recipes and menus for every situation you can imagine. There’s even a chapter on gift foods for servicemen. This cookbook is fairly new to my collection and I’m excited to show you more of what’s inside it.

For today, though, let’s get to our meal.

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Ham Baked with Orange Slices

1 lb ham cut in 1/4 in thick slices

1 orange, sliced

Whole cloves

Fine bread crumbs

Place the ham in a baking pan. I was able to get 6 large slices in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Stick two cloves into each slice of orange. Lay these around the ham and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Pour a little bit of orange juice over the ham and bake in a hot oven at 400-425°F for twelve to fifteen minutes.

 

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Before Baking

 

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Fresh From the Oven

Results

Since I was trying to keep things simple and fast, I served corn and fruit salad as sides. Corn is a favorite in my house, and the fruit salad was made with drained canned fruit cocktail, sliced bananas, and whipped topping. The ham was juicy with a mild orange flavor. We tasted the baked orange slices, but the consensus was that they weren’t very tasty. The ham, however, was delicious. I was able to serve 6 people.

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The meal was very easy to make and easy to clean up after. It was exactly what I was looking for today. I think that this would definitely be a good choice for a homefront housewife during WWII. There’s not much prep required, cooking time is minimal, and a woman could feel good about serving healthy food while still having time to do other things in the evening.

I’m also going to teach my teenagers this recipe. It’s an easy one for someone just learning to cook and a good option for young adults on a budget who are craving a homecooked meal.

Let me know if you try this one.

 

Baking without…Milk: Yeast Rolls

A warm homemade roll is a welcome addition to almost any meal. My seventeen-year-old daughter has been baking homemade bread almost daily, so I gave her this recipe to try out. My two oldest daughters are tremendous bakers and I love when they bake for me. This recipe makes about 2 dozen rolls.

This is from the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. To learn more about this series, you can start with Baking without…Eggs: Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Glaze.

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Yeast Rolls

1 cake yeast

1/4 c warm water

1/2 c boiling water

3 tbsp margarine

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 c cold water

1 egg, grade B

4 1/2 c sifted flour

melted margarine

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Pour boiling water over margarine, salt, and sugar. Stir until dissolved and add the cold water. Add the yeast and the well-beaten egg and mix well. Add 1 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Add the remaining flour, turn on a floured board and knead a few minutes. Place in a greased bowl, brush the top with melted margarine, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Knead lightly. Return to the greased bowl. When double in bulk, shape, and place in greased muffin tins. Brush with margarine, allow to rise again until doubled. Bake in a hot oven, 400°F for about 15 minutes.

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Results

These were moist and soft with a slightly crispy outer layer. My daughter said the dough looked dry while she was working with it, but the rolls were nice and moist when they were finished. My personal favorite way to eat them was fresh from the oven slathered with margarine and peach preserves. I have a 20-month-old whose favorite food is bread and she gave these the toddler seal of approval.

Of the twelve recipes in the Woman’s Day  “You can Bake without…” article, this was the only recipe that wasn’t for a cake, cookies, or other dessert. I’m glad they chose to include yeast rolls.  Rolls and breads were a large part of a person’s diet and rationing and shortages affected those foods, too. Plus, rolls were useful and versatile. Last night’s rolls could be included in today’s lunch box or this afternoon’s after-school snack. Rolls go with meats, soups, salads, and pastas. There aren’t many other foods that go with everything like a roll does.

Speaking of the Woman’s Day article, there are three recipes left. I’ll probably make those in March. There are several other topics I want to visit before I return to “Baking without…Shortening”. I also got some really interesting new cookbooks that I’d like to show you.

Let me know if you try these delicious rolls. I think you’ll like them.

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First Monday Menu: Hot Prem/Spam Sandwich and Orange Lily

World War II era magazine advertisers often used recipes featuring their products to entice housewives to buy their brands. I wanted to use a recipe from one of those magazine ads this month. I chose a hot sandwich made with canned meat that looked versatile, quick, and filling. Canned meats were popular because they were not rationed, they lasted a long time, and didn’t need refrigeration. They could also be eaten cold or hot, and they could be added to a variety of recipes. Since you can eat Spam and other meats straight out of the can, it was a handy food for soldiers, too.

This recipe is from a 1942 Prem ad. Prem is still being made, but I couldn’t find it anywhere near me. After some research, I found that Spam would make a good substitute. Does your grocery store have Prem? Have you tried it? I’m curious how it compares to Spam.

The other recipe in this menu is from the 1940 edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book. It is a drink that I think would be refreshing with any meal. Since this menu could also be a breakfast menu, I thought that the juice was a nice option.

Hot Prem/Spam Sandwich

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp chopped celery

1/2 tbsp green pepper

1/4 tbsp grated onion

salt

pepper

canned meat like Prem or Spam

toast

Beat two eggs slightly. Add milk, celery, green pepper, and onion. Add salt and pepper. Scramble over low heat, stirring constantly. Pan fry 2 slices of Spam or Prem. Serve on slices of toast. Makes 1 sandwich.

Note: This recipe truly only makes one sandwich. It’s easy to increase amounts to make enough for more.

Orange Lily

1/2 cup white grape juice

2 tbsp orange juice

1 tsp sugar

Fill glass half full of shaved ice. Add juices and sugar. Fill with chilled water. The cookbook suggests serving with two straws poked through a thin slice of orange.

Results

I think a lot of people are a bit apprehensive about eating Spam. It honestly is not bad at all. This sandwich was very similar to eating eggs on toast with some sausage or bacon. I added hashbrowns as a side. The meal was very filling. This is a nice choice for breakfast or a quick lunch.

I can definitely see the appeal of canned meats to the home front housewife. When ration points were running low, canned meats could help stretch what a housewife had and could add flavor to meals when food supplies were limited. This meal is a good option for people in a hurry or on a budget, as well. It’s hearty and quick to get on the table.

The Orange Lily drink was delicious. I did have to tweak the recipe a bit for my family’s tastes, though. When you add water and ice, the drink becomes more water than juice. I made a big batch of it in a pitcher and didn’t add any water. We just added ice in the individual glasses and that made it perfect for us. I also found that ice cubes worked better than shaved ice. The shaved ice we tried melted immediately. I also recommend stirring the mixture occasionally so the sugar doesn’t gather at the bottom of your glass or pitcher.

Let me know if you try either of these recipes. Have a great week!

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Baking without…Milk: Coffee Spice Cake

The second recipe in the “Baking without…Milk” series is this delicious coffee cake. It’s from an article in the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. I also have a 1941 recipe booklet called The Bread Basket that I’ve been wanting to use for a while. The booklet is full of bread recipes using Fleischmann’s Yeast. There are pastries, cakes, rolls, and a variety of other breads. I had my teenage daughter help me since she makes wonderful bread from scratch. We decided to add a cinnamon topping from The Bread Basket since it also doesn’t call for milk and would have been a recipe housewives in 1945 might have chosen to add themselves.

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Coffee Spice Cake

1/2 c lard

1 c sugar

2 eggs, grade B

3 tbsp molasses

1/2 c cold strong coffee

2 c sifted cake flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ginger

Cream lard, add sugar and cream until fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time and add molasses. Beat well. Add coffee alternately with mixed and sifted dry ingredients. Bake in greased 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan in a moderate oven (375°) for 40 minutes. You can also bake in two 8-inch layers for 25 minutes.

Cinnamon Topping

6 tbsp butter

3/4 c sugar

6 tbsp sifted flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

Cream the butter, add sugar gradually, mixing well. Add remaining ingredients and stir until mixed well and crumbly.

Results

After having the past few cakes turn out dry, I was expecting the same from this coffee spice cake. I was very wrong. It was moist and delicious. The cinnamon topping disappeared into the cake while it baked and added a really nice cinnamon flavor. This is a great cake for a brunch or breakfast, and it would be perfect for an afternoon tea or coffee get together. Try adding some vanilla ice cream! The recipe does have coffee in it, but we mainly tasted the molasses and the cinnamon from the topping we added.  The cake is quick and easy to make and I heartily recommend it.

Here is another from this baking without milk series: Baking without…Milk: Orange Marmalade Cake

The “Baking without…” series begins here: Baking without…Eggs: Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Glaze

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