History

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: 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.

 

Advertising Recipes: Lunch Boxes

I went through my collection of vintage magazines and found several ads that were aimed at the home front housewife in charge of packing lunches during rationing. A few of these ads also included recipes, and I thought they might be a fun way to continue our discussion about packed lunches this month. Today I chose ads that showcase sandwich spreads that added protein, a punch of flavor, and helped stretch rationed foods like butter.

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The first ad for today was in the April 14, 1944 issue of The Family Circle. I’m having a bit of trouble finding any information about Beverly Peanut Butter or the Table Products Company, but I’ll keep searching and update if I can. I liked the illustration in this advertisement. Notice the style of lunch boxes. One man has a vacuum bottle, possibly a Thermos, and the other man has a glass bottle with a straw. Beverly Peanut Butter’s marketing folks also made sure that the ad included that the peanuts were only from the United States and that the product was jarred fresh. Housewives were encouraged to keep their home front fighters and future soldiers healthy, so the ad mentioned that the peanut butter has protein and vitamins A and B1.

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This French’s Mustard ad from the August 1943 issue of Woman’s Day was all about packing lunches for hard-working men. Again, you can see the flip-top lidded lunch box, and a small insulated bottle that perhaps held a warm soup.

Butter was rationed in the United States beginning in March of 1943. The French’s advertisement included a recipe that would help stretch a housewife’s sandwich butter. Since it also mentioned that French’s is “especially delicious with meat or cheese,” we decided to have the mustard-butter as an addition to a ham sandwich. We’ve never tried this combo before.

French’s Mustard-Butter

Blend 2 tbsp of mustard into 4 tbsp of softened butter or margarine.

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Results

We used butter for our spread. Most of the testers like mustard. I like it in small amounts, so I was curious to see what the addition of butter would do to the bite that mustard usually has.

I toasted the bread and I spread a moderate amount of the mustard-butter on one slice. I topped that with a slice of ham and some Swiss cheese.

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I was pleasantly surprised. The butter made the mustard less sharp. You could also taste the butter in addition to the mustard. I had thought the butter flavor would be lost due to the fact that mustard is definitely the strongest flavor. The mixture was creamy and easy to spread. It would be an interesting addition to your condiments, and it could also act as a fun conversation starter when you have guests.

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I’m glad we tried this, and I’ll be adding more recipes from ads in the future. I’ve also added some images to my 1940s lunch boxes board on Pinterest.

Do you use this mix of butter and mustard on your sandwiches? Do you know anything about Beverly Peanut Butter? Leave me a comment below.

 

 

Victory Lunch Boxes: Introduction and Chili-Peanut Sandwich Filling

The home front housewife had many new challenges when World War II began. Shortages and rationing made cooking challenging due to having to learn new recipes with new ingredients and new ways of cooking. Those changes also led to changes in how packed lunches were planned and prepared. Leftovers from meals the night before were used in new and creative ways. Housewives became especially adept at planning meals with those leftovers in mind. Working men needed one type of lunch while school children might need something else entirely. And don’t forget that the housewife herself needed to eat, too. That had to be planned with the packed lunches so food wouldn’t be wasted.

I want to do a short series on Victory lunch boxes over the next week or so, then I’d like to add a regular lunch box post that will explore recipes, planning, tips for packing the food, advice on the best lunchboxes and Thermos to keep your food safe and fresh, and suggestions for lunch box menus for all types of people that might need to carry a meal with them during the day.  I will definitely include period recipes for different lunch box foods.

One of my favorite sources is a 50-page pamphlet from 1943 called 300 Helpful Suggestions for Your Victory Lunch Box. It’s called a “hook-up cook book” because it was designed to be hung at eye level so the cook could more easily read the recipe. The hole in the center of every page was created to be hung on small nails that the housewife would attach to her upper cabinets or a shelf. This also kept the cookbook protected from splashes and dirty fingerprints.

This first page has an introductory passage that speaks directly to housewives. The first lines suggest that careful food management will win the war. “Food management, one of wartime’s most important jobs, rests squarely on the shoulders of the American homemaker. Food will win the war and make the peace only if it is administered wisely by the meal planners of the nation so that supplies will be adequate to meet the ever-increasing demands.”

As with many other wartime publications, women were encouraged to do their part to win the war from on the home front. The passage says this is a way that housewives can contribute directly to winning the war. And they weren’t wrong, Women banding together to make sure rationing and other programs worked really did help contribute to victory.

My next post will start this series, but for now, I’ll leave you with a sandwich filling recipe from the pamphlet I mentioned above.

Chili-Peanut Sandwich Filling

1/4 c. peanut butter (We used creamy since we were adding in chopped peanuts.)

2 tbsp cream

2 tbsp chili sauce

1/4 c. finely chopped salted peanuts

Combine peanut butter, cream, and chili sauce. Add the peanuts. Mix well.

We toasted our bread first, then spread a layer of the filling on one slice. We were all a little hesitant to try this sandwich, but it ended up being pretty tasty. The chopped peanuts gave it a nice crunchy texture. The peanut butter wasn’t too thick due to the addition of the cream and chili sauce. I could taste the chili sauce, but it surprisingly complimented the peanut butter well. My husband added jelly to his and said that the combination of the sweet jelly and the chili flavored peanut butter was wonderful.

This would be a great option for a lunch box sandwich. The protein from the peanut butter and the carbs from the sandwich would be filling.

I’d recommend trying this one. It’s super easy to mix together and is a nice change from traditional PB&J sandwiches.

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Baking without…Sugar: Rolled Maple Lace Wafers

Sugar was first rationed in 1942. It was the first consumer commodity rationed but was soon to be followed by items like meat, coffee, and processed foods. Beginning on May 5, 1942, each person could receive a half pound of sugar a week. A pound of granulated sugar contains roughly 2 cups. In 1942, this was cutting the average family’s sugar consumption in half.

Home front housewives struggled to adapt to cooking with new restrictions, and magazines and cookbooks provided recipes to help them find appealing dishes for their family meals and desserts. This series of recipes is from the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. For recipes that don’t use eggs, check out that series beginning with Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Glaze

This recipe is the first of three that don’t require sugar. Unfortunately, this recipe didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. These little cookies still tasted terrific, they just weren’t anything like the recipe suggests they should be! More on that in a minute.

Rolled Maple Lace Wafers.

1/2 c. maple-flavored pancake syrup

1/4 c. margarine

1/2 c. sifted flour

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

A few grains of salt

Combine the syrup and margarine in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. When it is at a hard boil, keep it there for 30 seconds. Sift the remaining ingredients together and add them all at once to the syrup and margarine mixture. Stir briskly. This dough will be lumpy. Drop half teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet about 5 inches apart. Bake at 350° for 6 to 8 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute. Remove each wafer from the cookie sheet and roll it around a round handled spoon, then place it on a rack to cool. Don’t bake more than 8 cookies at once because they will harden too fast to roll on the spoon. If they do harden too much, you can return them to the oven for a few seconds.

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Results

The cookies should be little rolled wafers. We tried over and over to get this recipe to work, but we finally gave up and just baked them as cookies. Our cookies were too cakey inside to allow them to roll without breaking. The recipe says it makes about 2 1/2 dozen wafers, but if you make cookies the size of the ones you see here, it only makes about a dozen.

The cookies were tasty. They were soft and tasted like maple syrup on a pancake. They did taste better fresh out of the oven, so warming them when cold would probably be best. We ate them with tea and milk.

 

The Dishes

The cookies are displayed on an Anchor Hocking Vintage pattern snack set from the 1950s-1960s. These snack sets are handy for serving everything from sandwiches to cookies. We’ve used them for brunches, luncheons, afternoon teas, parties, and bedtime snacks. I’m not sure why these don’t seem to be made anymore. They are amazingly versatile.

The Perfect Patriotic Playlist from WWII

Music has long been a way to help us process strong emotions about important events, not just for happy days like birthdays and weddings, but also for difficult times. During World War II, music took a patriotic turn as we first watched and then participated in the fighting overseas.  Since today is a day of remembrance for Americans, I thought we could revisit some of the songs that helped us get through the war years.

 

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

Andrews Sisters, 1941

This is one of my very favorites. It has just the right amount of pep and optimism. I chose this video because the Andrews Sisters are fun to watch in action.

 

Remember Pearl Harbor

Eddie Howard and his Orchestra, 1942

 

Vict’ry Polka

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, 1943

 

Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)

Andrews Sisters, 1942

This was one of the most popular versions of this song. The song was originally an updated version of a 19th century English folk song that was used in a 1939 musical. The lyrics were changed when the war started, and the song became a huge hit.

 

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

The Merry Macs, 1942

 

God Bless America

Irving Berlin, 1938

Originally written by Berlin in 1918, it was revised in 1938 just in time to be a big hit during World War II. Kate Smith was well-known for singing this song.

I’ve included two versions. The second one is with the Victor Military Band and you can find it here:

God Bless America

 

G.I. Jive

Johnny Mercer, 1944

 

Just in case you are looking for more…

The links above are to archive.org. Original recordings are uploaded so visitors can hear what they sound like. Be careful–exploring the site can be addictive! There are plenty more options there as well as songs from different eras to add to your playlist.

History on the Net also has a page with a great selection of patriotic World War II songs.

 

Ginger Ale​ Frost

This will be my last drink post for a while. It’s a good drink for those warm first days of fall. I’ll be continuing the “Baking without…” series and I want to visit some lunch box recipes and wartime lunchbox packing tips. I also have few non-recipe posts coming up. I hope you’ll enjoy what’s in store for the coming weeks.

I wanted to include this recipe because it involves a little more prep than the others I’ve written about. It also is a good example of how cookbooks and magazines included help for the home front housewife in the form of tips and substitution ideas. This recipe suggests using corn syrup in place of half of the sugar required for the drink. This helped the housewife save some of her sugar rations for other recipes.

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Ginger Ale Frost

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 c. hot water

5 whole cloves

1 3″ stick cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 c. orange juice

1 c. canned grapefruit juice

3 1/2 c. pale dry ginger ale

ice

Boil the sugar and water together for 5 minutes. Add spices, and let stand for 1 1/2 hours. Strain through several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Add the fruit juices and chill. Just before serving, add the ginger ale and pour it into ice-filled glasses. This makes 6 1/2 glasses before adding the ice. Corn syrup may replace half of the sugar.

I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I used an empty tea bag as a strainer. This worked really well but made pouring each glass a slow process. Slow, but not tedious.

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Result

This is a lovely spiced ginger ale. It got mixed reactions from my testers. You can definitely taste the spices, but the grapefruit juice is not overpowering. One tester who dislikes grapefruit juice liked this drink, but another who dislikes nutmeg didn’t like this at all. This recipe is a bit time consuming, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend trying it at least once.