Desserts

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!

 

 

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

Baking without…Milk: Orange Marmalade Cake

Today I am revisiting the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day to do some “Baking Without…Milk”. While fresh milk was never rationed in the United States, shortages and additions to rationing were always a possibility. Woman’s Day wanted to provide women with options when it came to baking for their families no matter what was in their pantry.

I recently blogged about another orange cake, the Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake. If you are interested in following the “Baking without…” series from the start, you can begin with Baking without…Eggs: Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Glaze.

Orange Marmalade Cake

1/4 c shortening

1 c sugar

2 eggs, grade B

3 tbsp marmalade

grated rind of one orange

2 1/2 c sifted cake flour

3/4 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

2/3 c water

1/2 tsp lemon extract

Cream the shortening then add the sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Add the marmalade and the grated orange rind. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the water and lemon extract. Pour batter into two greased and floured 8-inch cake pans. Bake in a moderate oven, 350 °F for 40 minutes. Put the two layers together with frosting.

Note: 40 minutes would have been too long for this cake in my oven. The frosting used to put the cake together is a simple modern chocolate frosting recipe. It was the perfect compliment to the orange flavor of the cake.

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Results

The cake was a bit dry, but that’s not surprising when you look over the list of ingredients. It’s not terribly dry, but if you are a fan of moist cakes. this might not be for you. The orange flavor, though…

I mentioned in a previous post that I keep finding recipes for orange cakes, so I wasn’t really surprised when “Baking without…Milk” included this orange marmalade cake. I wondered why they seemed to be so popular, but after having two cakes this month flavored with orange rinds and marmalade, I am beginning to understand. The orange flavor is just right. It’s sweet but not overly so, and it goes well with so many different other flavors. The chocolate frosting with the orange was a great combo. One of my boys is about to turn 15 and he has now requested an orange cake for his birthday. Why isn’t orange cake a more popular option today? Is it where you live?

I’m going to continue “Baking without…Milk” over the next several days, then I have some other post ideas about life in the kitchen. Home front housewives had things other than cooking to do and I’d like to visit some of those topics.

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Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake

My birthday was this week. What better way to celebrate than to bake a WWII era cake? I’ve had the Pillsbury’s Diamond Anniversary Recipes cookbook for a while and haven’t had a chance to make anything from it. This seemed like a good time to do so.

The Cookbook was published in celebration of Pillsbury’s 75th anniversary in 1944. It’s more of a large booklet than a cookbook, and it also contains little stories, poems, and anecdotes about the 1944 readers’ grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The recipes range from cakes to cookies to casseroles. I chose the cake that was specifically created for the cookbook, the Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake.

The lighting isn’t great in the pictures. I apologize for that. It was much later in the day than I had hoped it would be when I took them.

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Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake

2 1/2 c Pillsbury’s Best Enriched Flour

4 1/2 tsp baking powder (or 3 tsp double acting)

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 c shortening

1 tbsp grated orange rind

1 1/2 c sugar

3 eggs

1 c milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together three times. Blend shortening and orange rind. Add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat about one minute after each addition. Add dry ingredients alternately with combined milk and flavoring. Mix well after each addition. Beat well after last addition only. Turn into well-greased layer cake pans. Cool before frosting. Put layers together with Fluffy Orange Frosting.

Fluffy Orange Frosting

2 1/4 c sugar

7 tbsp water

3/8 tsp cream of tartar

3 egg whites

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp yellow food coloring

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp grated orange rind

Combine first four ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Beat slightly to mix ingredients. Place over rapidly boiling water, beat with rotary beater until mixture will hold a peak (about 7 minutes). Remove from boiling water and add salt and yellow food coloring. Add vanilla and orange rind. Beat until thick and cooled, or until frosting holds its shape.

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Results

This recipe just didn’t work very well. My cake was a bit dry, and the frosting was really sweet and a bit gritty from the sugar not dissolving. The good news is that these are things that can be fixed with a few tweaks. The flavor of the cake is actually really good. It has a mild orange flavor. My husband doesn’t like anything with orange rind in it and he agrees that this is a nice, sweet orange without the bitterness orange peel often adds. The frosting is also flavored similarly and could be amazing if adjusted to be less sweet and gritty.

While this wasn’t exactly a win in the kitchen, it gives me a new challenge to work on. The light orange flavor is definitely worth trying again.

The day I made this cake, I read a magazine article that included three more orange cake recipes. I find that interesting. Was orange cake popular in the 1940s? I’m definitely going to do some research on this, and I think we’ll try one or two more of those cake recipes, too.

First Monday Menu: Stuffed Hot Dogs and Gingerbread

Today’s menu comes from the March 24, 1944 issue of The Family Circle. In 1944, the magazine was still a weekly publication distributed at grocery stores across the United States. Each issue included lots of advertisements for products commonly found at the local supermarket, some short fiction, Hollywood news, and lots of recipes. I pulled a menu from this issue and made it last night.

The menu is from an article titled “Julia Lee Wright’s All-Through-The Day Meal Plans”. There are several to choose from, and they are divided into plans for housewives who “stay at home all day” and plans for women “who work and keep house”. The entire day’s meals are planned and several recipes are included. I chose one aimed at a woman who both worked and was a housewife. I wanted to see what WWII era time-saving meals were like.

Here is what Dinner called for:

Stuffed Hot Dogs

Potato Salad (made the night before)

Buttered String Beans

Pickles or Relish Plate of Raw Vegetables

Toast or Toasted French Bread

Hot Gingerbread (packaged mix or combine the ingredients the night before)

Stuffed Hot Dogs

1 1/2 c. dry bread crumbs

1 tbsp finely chopped onion

1/2 c. thinly sliced celery

1 tbsp melted shortening

1/4 c. milk

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/8 tsp poultry seasoning

12 hot dogs

6 slices bacon

Combine bread crumbs, onion, celery, melted shortening, and milk in a small mixing bowl. Add seasonings and toss lightly to mix. Slit hot dogs lengthwise on one side and fill cavities with stuffing. Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each hot dog and fasten with toothpicks. Bake in a shallow pan at 425° for 20 minutes or until hot dogs are heated and bacon is crisp.

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Mary Jane Gingerbread

The menu didn’t include a recipe for gingerbread, and our local grocery store doesn’t have packaged gingerbread mix, so I found a recipe in Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes. 

1/4 c. butter

1/2 c. sugar

1 beaten egg

1/4 c. molasses

1 c. sifted flour

pinch salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp clove, scant

1/4 tsp nutmeg, scant

1/2 c boiling water

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the beaten egg and molasses. Sift the flour with salt, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Mix well. Add the boiling water and mix. Bake in a deep pan 30-40 minutes at 400°. Serve hot with whipped cream.

The recipe also includes notes that suggest cooking this batter in a waffle iron and then using two waffles and whipped cream to make a shortcake.

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Results

We followed the suggested menu. We had buttered green beans. toasted French bread, potato salad, and pickles.

The hot dogs are good but greasy. They remind me a bit of a Chicago dog. Be prepared for greasiness, though. I might make these again without the bacon, or make the bacon separately so there’s not so much grease. The stuffing is really tasty and makes hot dogs a little more interesting than just eating them on a bun with ketchup or mustard.

The gingerbread is the star of this menu. I love this recipe. The gingerbread is springy and spicy. We added some homemade whipped cream and served the gingerbread while it was still warm. It was perfect. The recipe is also quick and easy. You might have everything on hand to make it without making a trip to the store. This would be a pleasantly surprising after school snack or dessert.

The article states that working and managing a home means that you need meals that are quick to prepare while also remaining healthy and nutritious. Remember, the home front housewife was fighting a battle in her kitchen to keep American citizens healthy and able to do their part for the war effort. Quick didn’t mean she could slack on her war duty.

This menu is pretty fast to prepare. Stuffing and wrapping the hot dogs did take some time. The menu points out places where a housewife can prepare for tomorrow’s meal today. That adds extra work at night, but you can do it after the evening meal is over. That means that while you have a lot of work in the kitchen at night, a working housewife can still get dinner on the table at a reasonable time. I do want to note that the menu also calls for the morning’s meal to be partially prepared the night before, as well. That’s quite a bit of work before bed to prepare for tomorrow, but maybe it evens out over the week. If maintaining a specific meal time is important to a family, these menu plans will sure help that happen.

The pink bowls are 1956 Fire-King pink Swirl. They are pretty and delicate and offer a great way to showcase a delicious dessert.

 

Baking without…Sugar: Spicy Raisin Cookies

This recipe is next in the “Baking without…Sugar” series. It’s difficult to make sweet desserts and treats without sugar, but home front housewives did their best using the resources they had at hand. These spicy raisin cookies are from a December 1944 Woman’s Day Kitchen recipe. The recipe would have cost 27 cents and it was published in the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. 

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Spicy Raisin Cookies

2 1/2 c. sifted cake flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ginger

3/4 c. raisins

1 egg, well beaten

3/4 c. molasses

3/4 c. sausage fat

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Add raisins. Add combined egg, molasses, and cooled melted fat all at once. Mix this well. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for about 15 minutes.

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Results

First, a couple of notes. The recipe called for a grade B egg. Grade B eggs are not available where I live. I substituted Crisco for the sausage fat. I also adjusted the cooking time. Fifteen minutes in my oven resulted in cookies with burned bottoms. Ten minutes worked much better.

The cookies were a little on the dry side. They were not overly sweet. The raisins added a nice chewy texture. I think these would be nice with some chopped nuts added into the batter, and maybe a few more raisins. There’s definitely a molasses taste to them, so if raisins or molasses aren’t your favorites, I’d skip these.  I had the same 9 testers as before, and everyone said that these were not their favorites, but they weren’t terrible, either. I think that if I was a home front housewife on the last of my sugar for the month, these would make a decent dessert to hold my family over until we were able to get more sugar to bake with. If I wanted something sweeter, but without sugar, I would go with the Rolled Maple Lace Wafers instead.

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