Tag Archives: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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: 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: 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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