Main Dishes

First Monday Menu: A Helping of Hamburger

In January 1945, ground beef wasn’t being rationed. Using ready-ground hamburger as a staple in meals was a great way to include meat without resorting to the less appealing but more plentiful organ meats like liver and heart. Ground hamburger was also cheaper than other meats, so it helped keep food costs down. This month’s menu includes a hamburger recipe from the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day.

Menu

  • Party Hamburgers
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Bread Roll
  • Apple pie

Party Hamburgers

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 tbsp fat
  • Party Sauce

Mix hamburger, salt, pepper, and milk. Form into cakes and brown in fat. Remove cakes to a platter and keep hot.

Party Sauce

  • 1 tbsp fat
  • 1/4 c chopped mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c cooking sherry
  • 1/2 c ripe olives, chopped and pitted (we used black)
  • salt and pepper

Cook the mushrooms in the fat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the flour and brown lightly. Add the water gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture is thickened. Add sherry and chopped pitted olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat and pour over the hamburger cakes.

Results

It’s funny how sometimes something as simple as a meal made with ground beef can spark a conversation that lasts until dessert is over. We had a lot of thoughts about this menu. While it wasn’t our favorite, it was a hearty, filling meal. The hamburger cakes tasted exactly how you would imagine a hamburger cake to taste. We discussed adding finely chopped onion or garlic next time to add a bit of flavor. The sauce was thick and chunky and tasted great with both the hamburger and the mashed potatoes. I liked the combination of mushrooms and olives and the gravy-like consistency. I could taste the cooking sherry a bit more than I would have liked, but maybe cooking a while longer would fix that. Overall, everyone liked the meal. Enough to have it again? I’m not sure. I’m definitely glad we tried it, though, and I enjoyed the great conversation about 1940s life we had while eating it.

One of the things I liked about this particular menu, was that it was a solid choice for a home front housewife. The green beans and the potatoes were grown in Victory Gardens, and the housewife could easily substitute cooked carrots, squash, or even corn from their garden. The ground beef didn’t use any points, which was helpful. Points could be used for favorite cuts of meat on other nights of the week.

Eating organ meats was encouraged by the government. Large amounts of meat were being shipped to the soldiers overseas. Organ meats, however, were still plentiful in the United States. Magazines of the time period are full of tips and tricks for disguising liver or heart to look and possibly taste more appealing. Using ground beef was much simpler and straightforward–its taste and texture didn’t need masking.

Let me know if you try this menu. The party sauce is versatile. I think it would complement many kinds of meat and would add a nice flavor to vegetable dishes.

Later this week we’ll try out a recipe or two from the January food calendar found in the 1941 issue of Woman’s Home Companion. It’s before the start of the war for the American home front housewife, so we’ll see how folks ate just before food shortages became more widespread and rationing went into effect.

Serving Christmas Dinner: Christmas Dinner for the Army, Navy, and Marines in 1942

I enjoyed seeing the holiday menus served in each branch of the armed forces in December 1942. This is an Armour and Company advertisement in Good Housekeeping. Note that the home front housewife could send for a booklet explaining why the US troops were the best fed in the world. I wonder how many housewives sent for it. I’d love to see what was in it.

The government’s “Share the Meat” program is mentioned in the ad. This 1942 program was meant to encourage Americans to limit their meat consumption before meat rationing took effect in early 1943.

Americans! Share the meat as a wartime necessity. United States, 1942. [Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/96507329/
Good Housekeeping, Dec 1942.

Cheese Appetizers

Monday I posted a menu that included a recipe for Cheese Appetizers. It looked interesting, and unlike any of the other recipes I’ve seen from the war years, so I thought I’d test it. It was in the December 1942 Better Homes and Gardens.

My initial plan for this post was to find other snack mix recipes and include them, but I couldn’t find any. I know that modern party mix recipes were not published until the early 1950s, but I had assumed I could find something similar. Do you know of a snack mix that was commonly eaten in the first half of the 1940s? Let me know if you do, and I’ll add it here.

Cheese Appetizers

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • 3 c bite-sized whole wheat cereal
  • 3/4 c grated American or Parmesan cheese

Melt butter. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne, and cereal. Sprinkle mixture with cheese and toss gently until cereal is coated.

Results

I used Wheat Chex and grated Parmesan cheese. With the ingredients measured as listed above, the mixture tastes like salty Parmesan cheese. If you like Parmesan cheese, this isn’t a bad thing, but it definitely needs something else to work as an appetizer today.

First, I would cut the amount of salt in half. I’d add more cayenne because a dash doesn’t offer much flavor in this recipe. I added more Worcestershire sauce and it helped a bit, but this mixture could use some outside help. I’d add things like pretzels and breadsticks for variety.

I think these cheese appetizers would be great as croutons in a salad. You could crush them and use them for breading in a chicken dish. If you like crackers in your tomato or potato soup, tossing a few of these in your bowl would add nice flavor and texture. I think I am going to use the remaining mix I have to make a movie night party mix.

Let me know if your family has a snack mix recipe that’s been passed down. Is it similar to this one, or more like the mix we think of today when eating a snack mix? Can you think of other uses for this recipe? How would you serve it?

Christmas Menus

I wanted to start off December with a different kind of First Monday Menu. I’ve been researching different holiday menus, and I thought I’d add a few here so you can see what a Christmas dinner in the early 1940s might have looked like.

Holiday meals at the beginning of the decade would have looked much different than a dinner served during the rationing years. The menus I have chosen to feature here are from 1940 and 1942.

Your Gas Range Cook Book

This first two are from the January 1940 Your Gas Range Cook Book. It’s a 135 page softcover book that was distributed by the Wyandotte County Gas Company of Kansas. The back pages include a note from the company’s Home Service Department encouraging homemakers to look into CP (Certified Performance) gas ranges. I’ve included the two page spread of both menus so you can see some of the recipes.

The American Woman’s Cook Book

The next menus are from The American Woman’s Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer. I have the 1940 edition. The menu items are listed in the order the cookbook listed them.

Menu 1:

  • Oyster Cocktails in Green Pepper Shells
  • Celery
  • Ripe Olives
  • Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing
  • Apple Sauce
  • String Beans
  • Potato Puff
  • Lettuce Salad with Riced Cheese and Bar-le-Duc
  • French Dressing
  • Toasted Wafers
  • English Plum Pudding
  • Bonbons
  • Coffee

Menu 2:

  • Cream of Celery Soup
  • Bread Sticks
  • Salted Peanuts
  • Stuffed Olives
  • Roast Beef
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Potato Souffle
  • Spinach in Eggs
  • White Grape Salad with Guava Jelly
  • French Dressing
  • Toasted Crackers
  • Plum Pudding, Hard Sauce
  • Bonbons
  • Coffee

Better Homes and Gardens

The December 1942 issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” has seven menus! I’ll list one of them here, but I hope to try out one or two of them before the month is over. Each menu lists a main dish, vegetables, a salad and/or accompaniment, a dessert, and something else that would be nice to add to the meal. I found these menus to be more housewife friendly.

Menu:

  • Yule Roast–Standing Rib
  • Whole Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Browned Potatoes
  • Cranberry Stars on Pineapple Slices
  • Mayonnaise
  • Jellied Plum Pudding with Ruby Crown
  • Hot 8-Vegetable Cocktail
  • Relishes
  • Cheese Appetizers

The notes for this menu calls it a dinner in the English Tradition. They suggest starting things off by adding whole cloves and allspice to the 8-vegetable cocktail, heating it up, then straining it into a crystal cup and topping it with a lemon pierced with cloves. The magazine also says to top the broccoli with tiny pimento stars. Those cranberry stars on the pineapple? There’s a note about having cream cheese mixed with lemon juice added to stars cut from canned cranberries.

Here’s the recipe for those cheese appetizers.

Cheese Appetizers

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • 3 c bite-size whole wheat cereal
  • 3/4 c grated American or Parmesan cheese

Melt butter. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne, and cereal. Sprinkle with cheese. Toss gently until cereal is cheese coated.

I think it’s interesting that plum pudding was listed in each book or magazine. Do you eat plum pudding for Christmas dinner? It feels so old fashioned to me, and I wonder when we stopped seeing plum pudding as a Christmas dinner staple. I’m tempted to add one to my table this year.

Are any of the rest of the foods here on your must-cook holiday dinner list?

Honey Brownies

My soon to be 18 year old daughter volunteered to help me make a dessert from the January 1940 Your Gas Range Cook Book. We chose this recipe because we were hungry for brownies and thought the ingredients were interesting.

Honey Brownies

  • 1/4 c fat
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 squares (2 oz) chocolate
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c nut meats

Cream the fat and add the sugar gradually. Add the honey and mix thoroughly. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Add melted and slightly cooled chocolate. Mix well. Sift flour before measuring and then sift the flour, soda, and salt together. Add the sifted ingredients and nuts to the first mixture. Pour into a greased 9×9 inch square pan. Bake at 300°F for 55 minutes. Makes 3 dozen 1 1/2 inch squares.

Results

The brownies tasted more like honey than chocolate. Our first reaction was that they were rather plain and tasteless, but the more we nibbled on them the more addictive they became. The pan was empty within the hour. They were slightly chewy and cake-like. The honey was definately the strongest flavor. These weren’t very chocolatey at all. I will note that we left the nuts out of our batch because we prefer brownies without them.

These were quick to make and surprisingly tasty, but don’t make this recipe if you are craving chocolatey brownies. You might be disappointed, but you also just might find yourself enjoying them anyway like we did.

Have a wonderful week.

First Monday Menu: BBQ Chicken and Victory Garden Vegetables

The home front housewife’s Victory Garden would be keeping the kitchen stocked with fresh vegetables this time of year. Those fresh veggies were healthy and helped a family save rationing points and money by allowing them to fill up on meals that included homegrown food.

This is a light, easy to fix late summer meal that works as well today as it did in the 1940s. The chicken recipe comes from the 1944 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

Barbecued Fried Chicken

  • 2 1/2 lb fryer, cut up
  • 4 tbsp salad oil or fat
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp bottled thick meat sauce
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c catsup
  • dash tabasco sauce

Wash the fryer and dry it slightly. You can reserve the backbone, neck, and wing tips for making chicken broth later. Heat the salad oil in a skillet, then add the chicken. Brown on all sides over high heat. Remove the chicken and place in a shallow baking pan. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken. Bake uncovered in a moderate oven of 350°F for one hour or until the chicken is tender, basting every 10 minutes with the sauce in the pan. Place in a broiler oven which has been preheated (unless the manufacturer’s instructions say otherwise) and allow to brown slightly. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from broiler. Put the chicken on a platter and pour the remaining sauce over it to serve. Serves 4.

Note: In true home front housewife style, I used what we had on hand to make this recipe. I used chicken breasts instead of a whole fryer, and it worked well. 

Victory Garden Vegetables

I used squash, zucchini, and onions, but any vegetable you have on hand will work. Just slice, toss in a skillet, and cook with a little salt and pepper. This is also a great way to use up any leftover vegetables you have on hand. I’ve also added garlic pepper and/or cheese to the squash, zucchini, and onions. The melted cheese adds just the right amount of gooey indulgence to the dish. 

Results

The chicken breasts were very moist and flavorful. I like steak sauce, but I very rarely use it on steaks. This was a nice way to incorporate that flavor into a meal. Seven people ages 2 to adult tested this menu and everyone loved it. Next time I might add another side dish or a dessert, but the chicken and vegetables on their own were very satisfying. 

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.

IMG_9899

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.

IMG_9911

 

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!