Main Dishes

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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First Monday Menu: 1943 Lunchtime Rationed Menu

One of the challenges during the war years was creating menus that were varied, healthy, and appealing. As time went on, more and more commonly eaten foods either became scarce or were subject to rationing. Women’s magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks frequently contained articles or chapters with information and tips for meal planning with changing food availability.

The early 1940s saw many specialized publications aimed at teaching women to can, plant a Victory garden, or care for specific appliances, for example. These ranged from small pamphlets to larger softcover books and booklets. Many of these not only included information about canning or refrigerator care, but also contained recipes, meal planning tips, and menus. These publications were distributed by appliance companies, energy companies, and so on to both promote their business and offer help to homemakers.

Today’s menu comes from one such booklet. It’s the ABC of Wartime Canning by Josephine Gibson. In the foreword, Gibson explains that she wanted to include recipes to help homemakers create meals regardless of what was rationed or scarce. The copy I have seems to be a sample copy showing where you could have your company information printed on the cover prior to distribution.

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This booklet is full of interesting information. I’ll write a post on it in the near future. Today’s menu comes from a page titled “A Week’s Point-Saving Menus for a Family of Four (at a Moderate Cost)”. I chose a lunch menu because I think sometimes lunches are more difficult to plan, especially when it needs to be quick, yet healthy, or when the entire family might not be home.

 

Lunch

Scrambled Egg Sandwiches

Baked Apples

Cocoa

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Addie from @sugaraddies was on hand to help me out again. We scrambled eggs with chopped red pepper and onion. The onion and pepper could have been store-bought or grown in a Victory Garden. Many people raised chickens, too, so the eggs might have been from home instead of the store. There were shortages of eggs at times, but they were never rationed in the United States.

We sliced a loaf of French-style bread, buttered the slices, and toasted them lightly in the oven.

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We used a baked apple recipe from The Good Housekeeping Cook Book as a starter.

Baked Apples

6 large firm red apples

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. water

2 tbsp granulated sugar

cream

Core the apples, then pare them to about 1/3 of the way down from the top. Arrange in a baking dish. Boil the water and the 1 cup sugar together for 10 minutes and then pour this mixture over the apples. Bake at 350° until tender. Baste frequently. Cooking time depends on the apples. It might take up to an hour. Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar over each apple.

Put the pan under the broiler and baste often. Watch them carefully until the sugar melts and the apples are a light brown. Serve hot or cold with plain or whipped cream. Corn syrup can replace half the sugar.

If desired, the apple peelings can be cooked with the sugar and water for 10 minutes to color the syrup. Remove after this step.

Baked Stuffed Apples

Using the above recipe, add a cooked prune, a cut-up pitted date, or raisins just before sprinkling with sugar and placing under the broiler.

We sliced our apples in half and scooped out the core. We added raisins and brown sugar when we sprinkled the sugar over each apple.

Results

With the addition of cocoa, this would make a filling lunch for a cool or rainy day. I like that this menu used several things that could have been grown at home or purchased without using ration points. It’s also a meal that would appeal to adults and children. Those baked apples are a delicious treat!

Notice that the recipe for the baked apples include a note that corn syrup could be substituted for half of the sugar in the recipe. This was to offer the housewife a way to stretch her precious sugar rations.

First Monday Menu: Vegetable Chowder, Popovers, and Dutch Apple Cake with Lemon Sauce

For the first Monday of August, we went with something light as the main dish. This menu is from Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes (1941)It was listed in the  “inexpensive everyday meals” section. This recipe book deserves a post of its own, so I’ll have that ready for you later this week.

The recipes in this book are written a bit differently than I’m used to, so it was a little more difficult to determine what the ingredients were and how much of certain items was needed. In fact, the apples in the apple cake were only mentioned once when the recipe called for pressing apples into the batter. There was no other mention of how many apples we needed, or if they were to be peeled and sliced, and so on. I’ve tried to fix that for you here because these are great recipes that should be tried in today’s kitchens.

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Vegetable Chowder

1/3 c. half-inch cubes salt pork

1 onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 c. half-inch potato cubes

1/2 c. diced celery

1/2 c. half-inch parsnip cubes

1 c. carrots, cut in thin strips

1/2 c. green peppers, chopped

1 qt. boiling water

3 c. hot milk

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 c. dried bread crumbs

1 tsp chopped parsley

Serves 6.

Cook the salt pork in a saucepan until crisp. Remove the pork. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the potato cubes, celery, parsnip cubes, carrots, green peppers, and the water. Cook about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the milk, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and parsley.

Popovers

2 c. flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 c. milk

2 eggs, beaten until light

Mix and sift the flour and salt. Add the milk gradually so the mixture doesn’t get lumpy. Add the eggs. Beat 3 minutes with an egg beater. Pour into hot, well-greased iron gem pans at 450°, then decrease heat to 350° for 15 minutes. This recipe makes 2 dozen.

Note: We baked ours in muffin pans and adjusted the time in the oven accordingly.

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Dutch Apple Cake

2 1/2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

4 tbsp butter

1 egg

1 1/4 milk

2 apples, peeled and sliced

1/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix and sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 3 tbsp sugar. Cut the butter into the dry ingrediants. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and milk. Stir into the first mixture. Put this in a shallow buttered pan and press the edges of the apple slices into the dough. Sprinkle with a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup cinnamon. Glaze with lemon sauce.

Lemon Sauce

1 c. sugar

3 tbsp flour

pinch of salt

2 c. boiling water

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp butter

Mix sugar, flour, and salt and gradually add the water, stirring consistently to keep the mixture smooth. Boil for 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest,  juice, and butter. Pour over cake.

Results

The vegetable chowder was very bland. We added onion powder, garlic powder, and beef bouillon to try to add some flavor. It helped, but if we made it again, we would use broth instead of the water. It was a nice light soup for a hot summer day. The popovers were light and fluffy and went well with the soup.  They had little air pockets in them that would have been a great place to put some jam and butter.

The cake was the star of this menu. Three different people commented that it looked like a giant apple cinnamon roll. It was sweet and warm and gooey. The lemon sauce added a bit of tartness. It would make a great weekend breakfast and would shine in a brunch spread. Addie (@sugaraddies) placed the apples in a rosette, an idea that really worked well in the round pan. We’ll definitely make this again.

 

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First Monday Menu: Summer Lawn Party

I know this isn’t the first Monday of this month–it’s not even a Monday!– but what better way to kick off a blog than a fun menu from 1940?

On the first Monday of every month, I’ll be cooking an entire meal based on either a published menu or recipes from 1940-1945. This month it’s a summer lawn party from the Wyandotte County Gas Company’s 1940 cook book. Just so you know, Wyandotte County is in the eastern part of Kansas and includes Kansas City.

Summer Lawn Party

The star of the menu is a spiced chicken baked in a mustard-based sauce. Add some yummy torpedo rolls, corn on the cob, and a crisp salad to round the meal out. Pour yourself a refreshing  glass of iced tea, and finish things off with a slice of spiced blueberry pie.

I was a little surprised that this chicken recipe was suggested for a lawn party. I usually try to find foods that are easy to eat while standing and chatting, and this didn’t seem to fit the bill. With the sauce you’d definitely need a napkin, and a knife and fork to cut the meat into manageable bites. That’d eliminate the portability, and it just seems messy. I was intrigued by the mustard, horseradish, and brown sugar combo in the sauce, though. We made a few adjustments to both the menu and the recipes as we went, but tried to keep the recipes as close as possible to the 1940 version. My daughter Addison helped me cook this month.

Let’s start with the chicken.

Spiced Chicken

The spiced chicken called for a whole chicken cut up for frying, but we used chicken breasts because that’s what our family prefers. We pounded the chicken breasts flat with a mallet to help ensure they cooked all the way through. The recipe said to dredge in flour and seasonings, but didn’t specify which seasonings. We used 2.5 cups of flour with 2 tablespoons garlic pepper. We placed the flour coated breasts in a baking pan and moved on to the sauce.

Sauce:

1/2 c. prepared mustard

1/2 c. prepared horseradish

1/2 small box of Mexican Chili powder

1 c. vinegar

1/2 c. brown sugar

3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp salt

1 garlic clove

We used 1 tablespoon chili powder and added some extra garlic. We like our garlic! We mixed everything together and spread it evenly over the chicken breasts. We baked it at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. When it was done, we placed each breast on a bed of rice as the recipe suggested, and covered it with more of the sauce from the baking dish.

Torpedo Rolls

The Torpedo Rolls recipe called for using your favorite roll dough, and gave instructions of how to start the rolls before adding the “torpedos”. We took a short cut and used pre-made dough already shaped into rolls. We pressed holes halfway down into each roll and added a dollop of wild plum jelly that Addison canned last year with plums from our ranch. Then we followed the cooking instructions on the package. Using pre-made dough made easy work of this recipe.

Spiced Blueberry Pie

We felt the spiced blueberry pie recipe had a mistake somewhere in it. We followed it exactly and got a pie that just didn’t work. We tweaked the recipe and baked a new pie. You can read about the pie here: Spiced Blueberry Pie

Results

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The chicken was much more flavorful than I had expected. The dish had a very strong mustard aroma, and that made a few members of our dinner party question whether they’d like it or not. The sauce was tangy and very similar to honey mustard. The chicken was tender and juicy and there was enough sauce to add a bigger kick if needed. We added enough garlic that it gave the sauce added texture that you can see in the photos. The rice helped ease the bite of the sauce. I served this to a combination of 8 adults and children and only one person disliked it, mainly because she doesn’t like mustard.

The torpedo rolls were fun and well liked. The jam added a sweet touch and the rolls were soft and moist. The jelly was a little firmer than it had started out, but I liked the thicker texture. I’d like to try these in combination with other kinds of jam or jelly. Next time we might make these from scratch, but our shortcut worked well and proved to be a quick addition to our meal. I also liked the sweetness of the jelly mixed with the tangy kick of the sauce. I can see these being a versatile, easy side for a variety of meals, or even for a quick after school snack.

As for the menu being for a lawn party, I think it’d work best for any get together where there was ample seating and table space. This could very well be an outside event, but a place to sit would be a must. Cutting the chicken into bite sized pieces before the party could help it become more manageable. The recipe did call for a full chicken, and while drumsticks would also be more portable, the sauce would still be messy.

The menu makes for a nice summer meal that I would serve again.

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