Menu

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.

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?

First Monday Menu: Cheese Combination Sandwich

We’ve been relying on quick meals to help us save time this summer. July’s First Monday Menu is one of those quick meals, and it is another one that is flexible enough that you’ll be able to make do with what you have in your pantry and refrigerator.

The home front housewife would have found this sandwich spread convenient for lunch boxes or an easy meal at lunchtime while her family is away at school or work. It’s from the 1940 edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book, but the recipe’s lack of meat would have made it handy all throughout the war years.

Cheese Combination Sandwich

  • 1 c cream cheese or cottage cheese
  • 1/4 c mayonnaise OR
  • 1/4 c chopped olives OR
  • 1/4 c chopped nuts OR
  • 1/4 c chopped pimientos

Mix the cheese with the mayonnaise, olives, nuts, or pimientos. Spread between two thin slices of lightly buttered rye or brown bread.

Results

The way the recipe is written suggests the home front housewife could have used whichever of these ingredients she had on hand, or in a combination she and her family preferred. I used cream cheese and mayonnaise, and added chopped green olives and pimientos. I used whole wheat bread instead of rye because that’s what I had on hand.

This was actually a lovely sandwich. It was filling and flavorful. My testers and I all thought it had a medium strength olive taste, but the spread can be adjusted to fit your taste desires. I didn’t add nuts, but that would provide a bit of crunchiness to the softer spread and bread.

I added plain potato chips and a pickle spear. Potato chips were eaten in the 1940s. The United States government decided that potato chips were important enough to keep producing during the war years, so they would have been available to the home front hosuewife. Flavored chips were not introduced until later, so in WWII, potato chips would have been plain. Dips were not served with chips until the 1950s, although it is certainly possible people in the mid to late 1940s ate them with cracker spreads. There are no dip recipes in this edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book.

Let me know if you try this one. Happy July!

First Monday Menu: Chicken a la King and Sour Cream Cocoa Cake with Mocha Frosting

This month’s menu comes from the 1940 edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book. This is a great cookbook from the beginning of our wartime period. I like comparing cookbooks from 1940 to cookbooks from later in the war years. Most of the later ones include advice and recipes for cooking and entertaining while dealing with rationing and shortages. Many also include recipes and tips for the working woman.

Today’s entree is a recipe many people still make today. We served our chicken a la king over spaghetti. You can also substitute salmon for the chicken.

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Chicken a la King

  • 2 c cooked diced chicken
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • green pepper, minced
  • pimiento, cut in thin strips
  • 1 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 c chicken stock or milk
  • 1 c sour cream or evaporated milk
  • 4 tsp sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter, add the peppers and mushrooms, and saute until light yellow. Lift out. Blend the flour with the seasoned butter. Add the chicken stock and cook until thickened. Add the chicken, and when it’s hot, add the cream combined with the beaten egg yolks and the mushrooms, pepper, and pimiento. Add the sherry and serve immediately. Don’t cook after adding the egg yolks because the mixture may curdle. You can stand it over hot water if needed. You can also use 1 can of red salmon, boned and skinned.

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Results

This was very filling, but also a bit bland. While we were eating we discussed what we would do differently, and we all agreed the chicken should have been seasoned more. Adding some garlic and using cream of mushroom soup for part of the liquid were other suggestions. I looked up a couple modern versions of this recipe and found that the 1940 recipe and the 2019 recipes were almost identical, so perhaps we are just fans of spicier food in my family. Overall, it was good, but not something I can see myself making again.

Sour Cream Cocoa Cake

  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 3/4 c boiling water
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg whites

Mix cocoa in boiling water and stir mixture until smooth. Cool. Cream shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add cocoa mixture to creamed mixture. Sift flour, salt, and soda together. Add dry ingredients alternately with cream to the first mixture. Beat until smooth after each addition. Add vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into pans lined with waxed paper and bake in a moderate oven (350°F) for 30 minutes. Makes 2 (9 in) layers. Spread Mocha Frosting between layers and on top.

Mocha Frosting

  • 1 1/2 tsp Mocha extract or strong coffee
  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3/4 c chopped nuts

Mix the extract or coffee with the sugar and stir into the water, gradually, smoothing out the lumps. After the frosting is spread on the cake, 3/4 c chopped nuts may be sprinkled over the top.

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Results

I feel like this cake was playing an April Fool’s Day joke on us. The top layer broke. The frosting was extra runny and either soaked into the cake or slipped right off the cake stand and onto the counter. We had to make a double batch of the frosting to have enough. It was also fairly time-consuming with lots of steps involved in the cake itself. I was worried about how it’d taste.

I shouldn’t have worried. It was delicious. It was moist and milk chocolatey, and definitely filling. The frosting had a very mild mocha flavor and was more like a glaze than a frosting. The cake was so wonderful, though, that a heavier frosting would have been too much. We’ll definitely make this one again.

I hope the weather has been kind to you this week. Let me know if you try any of these recipes!

 

 

First Monday Menu: Ham Baked with Orange Slices

My husband recently had surgery. His recovery is tough, so we have been hunting for quick and easy meals to cook. I thought I’d find a WWII meal that fits the bill for this month’s First Monday Menu.

The ham recipe I used is from the 1943 cookbook Double-Quick Cooking for Part-time Homemakers by Ida Bailey Allen. I’m fascinated with this cookbook right now. It was aimed at single working women and wives who worked while their husbands were at war. There are menus with quick recipes and detailed instructions for creating the meal as efficiently as possible. The author gives tips for meal planning and avoiding food waste, as well as recipes and menus for every situation you can imagine. There’s even a chapter on gift foods for servicemen. This cookbook is fairly new to my collection and I’m excited to show you more of what’s inside it.

For today, though, let’s get to our meal.

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Ham Baked with Orange Slices

1 lb ham cut in 1/4 in thick slices

1 orange, sliced

Whole cloves

Fine bread crumbs

Place the ham in a baking pan. I was able to get 6 large slices in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Stick two cloves into each slice of orange. Lay these around the ham and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Pour a little bit of orange juice over the ham and bake in a hot oven at 400-425°F for twelve to fifteen minutes.

 

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Before Baking

 

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Fresh From the Oven

Results

Since I was trying to keep things simple and fast, I served corn and fruit salad as sides. Corn is a favorite in my house, and the fruit salad was made with drained canned fruit cocktail, sliced bananas, and whipped topping. The ham was juicy with a mild orange flavor. We tasted the baked orange slices, but the consensus was that they weren’t very tasty. The ham, however, was delicious. I was able to serve 6 people.

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The meal was very easy to make and easy to clean up after. It was exactly what I was looking for today. I think that this would definitely be a good choice for a homefront housewife during WWII. There’s not much prep required, cooking time is minimal, and a woman could feel good about serving healthy food while still having time to do other things in the evening.

I’m also going to teach my teenagers this recipe. It’s an easy one for someone just learning to cook and a good option for young adults on a budget who are craving a homecooked meal.

Let me know if you try this one.

 

First Monday Menu: Hot Prem/Spam Sandwich and Orange Lily

World War II era magazine advertisers often used recipes featuring their products to entice housewives to buy their brands. I wanted to use a recipe from one of those magazine ads this month. I chose a hot sandwich made with canned meat that looked versatile, quick, and filling. Canned meats were popular because they were not rationed, they lasted a long time, and didn’t need refrigeration. They could also be eaten cold or hot, and they could be added to a variety of recipes. Since you can eat Spam and other meats straight out of the can, it was a handy food for soldiers, too.

This recipe is from a 1942 Prem ad. Prem is still being made, but I couldn’t find it anywhere near me. After some research, I found that Spam would make a good substitute. Does your grocery store have Prem? Have you tried it? I’m curious how it compares to Spam.

The other recipe in this menu is from the 1940 edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book. It is a drink that I think would be refreshing with any meal. Since this menu could also be a breakfast menu, I thought that the juice was a nice option.

Hot Prem/Spam Sandwich

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp chopped celery

1/2 tbsp green pepper

1/4 tbsp grated onion

salt

pepper

canned meat like Prem or Spam

toast

Beat two eggs slightly. Add milk, celery, green pepper, and onion. Add salt and pepper. Scramble over low heat, stirring constantly. Pan fry 2 slices of Spam or Prem. Serve on slices of toast. Makes 1 sandwich.

Note: This recipe truly only makes one sandwich. It’s easy to increase amounts to make enough for more.

Orange Lily

1/2 cup white grape juice

2 tbsp orange juice

1 tsp sugar

Fill glass half full of shaved ice. Add juices and sugar. Fill with chilled water. The cookbook suggests serving with two straws poked through a thin slice of orange.

Results

I think a lot of people are a bit apprehensive about eating Spam. It honestly is not bad at all. This sandwich was very similar to eating eggs on toast with some sausage or bacon. I added hashbrowns as a side. The meal was very filling. This is a nice choice for breakfast or a quick lunch.

I can definitely see the appeal of canned meats to the home front housewife. When ration points were running low, canned meats could help stretch what a housewife had and could add flavor to meals when food supplies were limited. This meal is a good option for people in a hurry or on a budget, as well. It’s hearty and quick to get on the table.

The Orange Lily drink was delicious. I did have to tweak the recipe a bit for my family’s tastes, though. When you add water and ice, the drink becomes more water than juice. I made a big batch of it in a pitcher and didn’t add any water. We just added ice in the individual glasses and that made it perfect for us. I also found that ice cubes worked better than shaved ice. The shaved ice we tried melted immediately. I also recommend stirring the mixture occasionally so the sugar doesn’t gather at the bottom of your glass or pitcher.

Let me know if you try either of these recipes. Have a great week!

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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.