Main Dishes

St. Valentine's Luncheon

This is a quick post to give you a menu from the Wyandotte County Gas Company’s Home Service Department’s 1940 cookbook, Your Gas Range Cook Book. I’ve included three of the recipes.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuna Fish Loaf with Mushroom Sauce

Note that the mushroom sauce is included in the recipe but needs additional ingredients. This makes 6 servings.

Heart Beet Salad

The “heart” in this salad comes from a cookie cutter. The recipe makes 6 servings.

Valentine Meringues

There’s a lot going on in this recipe. Additional supplies are listed in the directions.

First Monday Menu: Variety-Vegetable Macaroni Casserole and Bargain Brownies

This month I want to explore recipes that were created to help home front housewives deal with rationing and shortages. I’ll write a bit more about that later in the week. Today’s menu is interesting and I want to get straight to it.

Variety-Vegetable Macaroni Casserole

The main dish recipe comes from the February 1943 issue of Woman’s Day. You’ll see several things from this magazine this month. It’s fascinating. It’s the first issue to include the “Woman’s Day War Food Bulletin” that explained rationing, gave updates to that and other government wartime programs, and provided advice on how to live with all the changes that were happening. There were numerous recipes in each of these food bulletins, and they were aimed at finding solutions to problems the home front housewife might be struggling with that month.

This particular magazine issue really dives into rationing and what it meant to everyday people. I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty that came from having to completely change your shopping and eating habits. I’m sure people wondered if there would be enough food to feed their families. Woman’s Day and magazines like it helped home front housewives feel more confident about moving forward and adjusting. The magazine is filled with recipes like today’s casserole. This casserole comes from an article about how to make satisfying meals with macaroni, noodles, and spaghetti. They are offered as being cheap menu choices, and only two of the twelve recipes included meat. Today’s casserole cost just 28 cents for four servings.

The Variety-Vegetable Macaroni Casserole recipe calls for a soup bunch. Although this is occasionally available in modern supermarkets, it is not something many people where I live have heard of. In the 1940s, groups of vegetables were bundled together as a kind of soup starter kit. We created our own bundle of shallots, celery, turnips, carrots, potatoes, and parsley. Cabbage was a separate ingredient in the recipe, but we would have added it to the soup bunch if it hadn’t been.

  • 1 soup bunch, thinly sliced
  • 2 c shredded cabbage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp margarine
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 8 oz package elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 2 or 3 slices of cheese

Barely cover vegetables with boiling water and add salt. Cover and cook for ten minutes. Drain, reserving liquid for soup, etc. (Note: not needed for this recipe) Add pepper, margarine, macaroni, and milk. Pour into two quart casserole dish. Bake in slow oven at 300°F for 45 min. Put cheese on top 15 minutes before removing casserole from oven.

A few more notes: We doubled the recipe and it worked well. We guessed on the amounts of our soup bunch ingredients. If you find that you have too much, you can freeze the vegetables for later. They would be great in several kinds of soup. The recipe says to save the vegetable liquid for soup. This was a common thing to do to prepare for later meals, but the liquid is not needed for this recipe.

Bargain Brownies

This recipe comes from What Do We Eat Now? A Guide to Wartime Housekeeping, a 1942 book by Helen Robertson, Sarah MacLeod, and Frances Preston. Even though I don’t think of brownies as cookies, there were several brownie recipes in the cookie section. The authors said they concentrated on recipes that didn’t use a lot of sugar and didn’t have too much fat. They said that any of the recipes in the section would be great in a lunch box or sent off to soldiers at camp.

  • 1 c chopped peanuts
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • few grains salt
  • 1/3 c cocoa
  • 1/3 c melted fat
  • 1/3 c dark corn syrup
  • 1 egg

Grease a shallow eight-inch pan and line it with wax paper. Grease the paper. Bake in a moderate oven at 350°F for 15 min.

Sift flour with baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Blend fat and corn syrup. Stir in a well beaten egg. Add dry ingredients gradually, stirring them in as added. Add peanuts. Turn into prepared pan and bake.

Note: This was added at the bottom of the recipe: “These brownies are not sweet as we are accustomed to having them. They may be spread with cream chocolate frosting if desired.”

Results

The variety-vegetable macaroni casserole was delicious. It was easy to make, and it’s a flexible recipe. You really could add in any number of vegetable combinations and it would be tasty. It’s meatless, so it didn’t require rationing points for meat. If she had fresh vegetables in her garden, or leftovers from prepping another meal, the only thing the home front housewife would really have to purchase would be cheese and macaroni.

The casserole was warm and hearty. With the macaroni, turnips, and potatoes, it was a meal that would fill up hungry family members. Every one of my testers went back for seconds. There were just enough vegetables with the macaroni. This is also flexible–you can add the amounts of each vegetable that you prefer. We rarely eat turnips, so I was happy to use them in this casserole. The only things we might change for next time would be adding a bit more pepper and more cheese slices across the top.

I don’t recommend the bargain brownie recipe. Unless you are interested in what this specific wartime recipe is like, I would not make these. If you are looking for a brownie recipe to go with this menu, I’d suggest Honey Brownies instead.

The bargain brownies’ batter was more like a dough. We had to press the mixture into the pan. After they were baked, they were the driest, crumbliest brownies I have ever dealt with. They tasted like squares of solid cocoa powder. I know that the recipe stressed that they were not sweet, but these were inedible. I even took a second bite to try to evaluate them from the point of view that brownies didn’t need to be sweet and that during the war people had to make changes to their food. There is no way I would ever eat an entire brownie. They were bitter and so powdery dry that it was difficult to chew and swallow them.

I have tried numerous recipes that called for substitutions or adjustments from this time period. Some were delicious, and some were just ok. Never have I tried a recipe that I couldn’t take more than a bite or two. I know that there are better wartime recipes than this.

I’m going to try to find another brownie recipe that I can add to this post this month. The Honey Brownies I linked above were good, but not as chocolatey and sweet as a traditional brownie. I’ll see what I can find. In the meantime, let me know if you try out the casserole. I think you’ll be pleased with it.

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.