Tag Archives: first monday menu

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!

 

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.

IMG_7385

 

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.

 

IMG_7380

Before Baking

 

IMG_7382 2

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.

IMG_7389

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.