Desserts

Raisin Clusters

Let’s continue our peek into January magazines. How do chocolate raisin clusters sound to you?

In the Woman’s Home Companion January 1941 issue, the magazine’s home service center’s Dorothy Kirk talks about how to include seedless raisins in your cooking. Kirk mentions that raisins are great for making almost any dish look festive. She suggests adding them to cereal, plum pudding, Banbury tarts, or warmed-over gravy. I’ve never added raisins to gravy, so I’m definitely making a note to try that in the future.

Raisin Clusters

  • 1 c semisweet chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 1 c raisins
  • 1/2 c sliced Brazil nuts

Put the semisweet chocolate pieces in the top of a double broiler. Place over hot (not boiling) water to melt the chocolate. Remove it from the hot water and put it over cold water. Stir until the chocolate starts to thicken. Add the raisins and the nuts and mix well. Drop the chocolate mixture in small mounds onto a tray or shallow pan lined with wax paper. Put the clusters in the refrigerator or other cool, dry place to allow them to dry. Makes 2 dozen clusters.

Results

My testers and I had mixed feelings about these raisin clusters. If you like dark chocolate, you’ll probably enjoy these candies. Those of us who are not as fond of dark chocolate would have liked them better with milk chocolate. We thought the semisweet chocolate was too bitter. I also think that a few more nuts would help add more interesting texture and flavor. The candy needed something crunchier to break up the softness of the raisins and the chocolate.

These raisin clusters were easy and quick to make. They’d make a nice addition to a holiday dessert plate and would be easy to pack in a pretty box for Valentine’s Day. This recipe is also flexible. You can experiment with other ingredients that you might have on hand in your pantry.

Let me know if you try these and if you change the recipe any. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Update: Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles–One Week Later

As promised, we tried the Ginger-Date Jumbles after being sealed in an airtight container for a week. We also sealed them according to the article with wax paper and tape. We kept some out of the containers to eat over the first few days.

The article suggested planning for double the usual shipping time, so we thought a week would be a good average time from the day the cookies were made to the day the soldier received their package. Remember–the cookies were only being sent to stateside soldiers and these cookie recipes were specifically created for lasting until the box got to its destination.

I would have been disappointed to get these cookies in a Christmas box. The first two days the cookies were moist and flavorful (and then they were gone!). After a week, we ate the ones that had been packaged. They were incredibly dry and tasteless. I couldn’t eat a whole one. I’m not sure how the Good Housekeeping recipe creators tested these cookies, but this recipe did not keep well.

I did like the cookies fresh, though. You can see the original blog post here.

Just Peachy: Fast, Simple 1941 Dessert

The January 1941 Woman’s Home Companion includes a “January Food Calendar” with food preparation ideas for almost every day of the month. The ideas range from entire meals to desserts to snacks. It’s written like a story, following the fictional Taylor family’s day to day living.

I know this recipe is from before the United States entered the war, but I like to look at how food choices and cooking methods changed from 1940 to 1945. Plus, in 1941 Americans were following what was going on overseas, so this war was definitely not foreign to them.

Today’s recipe is from the January 10th spot. It’s something different. I hope you enjoy it.

Peach Cake and Ice Cream Dessert

  • sponge cake rounds
  • ice cream (We used vanilla.)
  • canned halved peaches
  • favorite jam or preserves (We used blackberry preserves.)

Spread ice cream over the top of the sponge cake rounds. Then take a halved peach and place it on top of the ice cream. Fill the cavity where the peach pit was with jam or preserves. We tried both softening the ice cream before spreading it and using spoonfuls straight from the carton. Both worked well. We drained the peach halves before using them, but you could drizzle the peach juice over the top as a finishing touch if you’d like.

I served these in 1956 pink Fire-King Swirl bowls from my collection.

Results

I was pleasantly surprised at how all the flavors combined to make a really interesting dessert. The soft cake, the cold ice cream, and the sweet fruit were perfect together, each one adding its unique taste and texture. Everyone in my family loved it, even the picky eaters. It was also fast and simple to make, with no cooking time needed. Many home front housewives would have had the canned peaches and jam on hand from canning in the war years, so this would be a good recipe to use after rationing and shortages made cooking more difficult.

I recommend this one. Let me know if you try it. Later this month we’ll revisit the January food calendar for another dessert.

Peter Pan Peanut Butter Frosting

This month, I’m going to be testing recipes in January magazine issues from 1940-1945. I’ve scoured ads and articles to find recipes you can use in your meal planning today, ranging from full menus to yummy desserts.

I’m beginning the month with a Peter Pan Peanut Butter frosting recipe from an advertisement in the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. It was a full-page, full-color ad inside the back cover of the magazine.

Peanut butter was originally sold in tin cans with a variety of reclosable lids. Metal shortages due to the war led peanut butter manufacturers to switch to glass jars. In 1988 Peter Pan peanut butter was the first to come in a plastic jar. This ad shows the new glass jars that were being used during the war, and still has the woman portraying Peter Pan in the imagery. Much later the company used Disney’s version of Peter Pan instead.

This frosting recipe is one of two listed in the lower-right corner. The company, like so many others at the time, offered a recipe booklet by mail. I managed to find a copy of this booklet and it should arrive next week. I can’t wait to share it with you when it gets here!

Until then, here’s a recipe to use with that jar of peanut butter you have in your pantry.

Peter Pan Frosting

  • 1/2 c Peter Pan Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 c butter or margarine
  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar

Cream the peanut butter and butter together. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar. Cream until light and fluffy. Use on white, spice, or chocolate cake. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

Results

The frosting is really soft and smooth. I found that putting it in the refrigerator for a while helped keep it from becoming too soft to use. It does taste like a sweeter version of peanut butter, so peanut butter fans with a sweet tooth will definitely ask for seconds. We used white cake cupcakes, but I think this frosting would be amazing on chocolate cake.

What is your favorite way to use peanut butter?

Soldiers’ Christmas Boxes: Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles

In 1942, the folks in the Good Housekeeping kitchens spent quite a bit of time finding recipes that would work in a Christmas box for soldiers serving their country. The December issue included an article with the resulting recipes and some tips for packing goodies up to mail.

Here are a few:

  • Allow plenty of time for your package to get to its destination. The article mentions several times that only stateside servicemen should be getting boxes of treats. The government actually asked for packages to be free from perishable items when shipping overseas. Even so, transportation of vital military supplies was given higher priority over gift boxes, so a home front housewife needed to prepare for the box to take twice as long as usual to arrive.
  • Plan on the box arriving before or after Christmas Day. The armed forces provided good holiday meals to soldiers and getting a box of goodies before or after would extend the celebration.
  • Plan with friends and loved ones before shipping. Arranging for boxes to arrive every few days instead of all at once also extended the joy of the holidays.
  • Organize a cookie making club. Sharing cookies with others sending off boxes added variety to box contents.
  • Weigh and Measure! Servicemen could only receive packages under 70 pounds and with a combined length and width of under 100 inches.
  • Add a homey touch to boxes by lining the lids and any divider edges with pretty pantry-shelf paper, and by wrapping smaller boxes of treats with ribbon.
  • Address packages carefully and mark them with “Perishable–Handle with Care”.

I chose one recipe to test, and we are going to try them fresh, then seal some up the way they suggest to see how they taste in a week. I wondered how these foods would last and what they would taste like when they got to their recipient. We are also going to put some in a modern airtight container to see if that makes a difference. I’ll let you know how they taste in an update.

Until then, try these Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles.

Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles

  • 1/2 c and 2 tbsp shortening
  • 1/2 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 c dark molasses
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed cake spice or cinnamon
  • 2 c pitted dates, cut up

Work shortening with the back of a spoon until it’s fluffy and creamy. Add brown sugar gradually while continuing to work with a spoon until light. Add eggs and blend. Mix the ginger with molasses and then add it to the shortening mixture. Stir in the boiling water. Sift together the dry ingredients, and then add to the sugar mixture. Add the dates and mix the mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased or oiled cookie sheet about 2.5 inches apart. Bake in a moderately hot oven at 400° F for 10-12 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator and bake cookies as needed. You can also substitute raisins for the dates or leave the dates out entirely.

Results

These cookies had mixed reactions at my house. My husband and I loved them, but some of my kids thought they were “just ok”. My 2-year-old devoured them. The cookies were very soft and cake-like. The dates added nice flavor and texture. They had a milder molasses flavor than other similar cookies I’ve tried. I’m really curious to see if they keep their soft cakiness after a week. Look for an update soon!

Happy New Year!

Spice Corn Syrup Cake

Today’s recipe comes from Watkins Economy Recipes. This little booklet includes 48 pages of recipes and advice on how to deal with rationing and shortages. There are sections on stretching meat and sugar that offer interesting recipes that I want to try soon. Each recipe’s ingredients list includes at least one Watkins product.

The J.R. Watkins Company began when Mr. Watkins began selling liniment door-to-door in southeastern Minnesota in 1868. The company expanded, and by the 1940s, it was the largest direct sales company in the world. Watkins products are still being sold in stores today.

Inside the back cover of this cookbook is a checklist of Watkins’ products. There are spices and medicines, cleansers and veterinarian products. It’s a fascinating, varied list. If a home front housewife had a problem, chances are that the Watkins catalog had a solution.

Today’s spice cake recipe is an example of a dessert that did not require much sugar.

Spice Corn Syrup Cake

  • 2 c sifted cake flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp Watkins baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Watkins ginger
  • 1 tsp Watkins cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Watkins nutmeg
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1 c light corn syrup, preferably extra sweet variety
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c cold coffee
  • 1 c raisins
  • 1 tsp Watkins vanilla
  • 1 tsp flour to dredge raisins

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Melt shortening over hot water, mix with the corn syrup and cool. Cream mixture thoroughly. Add egg yolks and beat briskly. Add egg and beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with the coffee. Dredge raisins in 1 tsp flour and add those and the vanilla. Mix. Pour into 2 greased layer cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes at 350°F. Test with a cake tester before removing from oven.

NOTE: I kept the Watkins brand name ingredients so you could see how many were in the recipe.

Results

I wish I could say that we liked this cake. It was so dry and didn’t have much flavor. Since it was baked in two layer cake pans, it ended up being thin, as well. We added whipped cream topping to it to try to combat the dryness, but it didn’t help much. Adding a scoop or two of ice cream makes everything better, and this cake is no exception. The raisins were a nice touch. They added a bit of texture.

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.

IMG_9907

 

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!