Tag Archives: Menu

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.

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?

First Monday Menu: BBQ Chicken and Victory Garden Vegetables

The home front housewife’s Victory Garden would be keeping the kitchen stocked with fresh vegetables this time of year. Those fresh veggies were healthy and helped a family save rationing points and money by allowing them to fill up on meals that included homegrown food.

This is a light, easy to fix late summer meal that works as well today as it did in the 1940s. The chicken recipe comes from the 1944 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

Barbecued Fried Chicken

  • 2 1/2 lb fryer, cut up
  • 4 tbsp salad oil or fat
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp bottled thick meat sauce
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c catsup
  • dash tabasco sauce

Wash the fryer and dry it slightly. You can reserve the backbone, neck, and wing tips for making chicken broth later. Heat the salad oil in a skillet, then add the chicken. Brown on all sides over high heat. Remove the chicken and place in a shallow baking pan. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken. Bake uncovered in a moderate oven of 350°F for one hour or until the chicken is tender, basting every 10 minutes with the sauce in the pan. Place in a broiler oven which has been preheated (unless the manufacturer’s instructions say otherwise) and allow to brown slightly. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from broiler. Put the chicken on a platter and pour the remaining sauce over it to serve. Serves 4.

Note: In true home front housewife style, I used what we had on hand to make this recipe. I used chicken breasts instead of a whole fryer, and it worked well. 

Victory Garden Vegetables

I used squash, zucchini, and onions, but any vegetable you have on hand will work. Just slice, toss in a skillet, and cook with a little salt and pepper. This is also a great way to use up any leftover vegetables you have on hand. I’ve also added garlic pepper and/or cheese to the squash, zucchini, and onions. The melted cheese adds just the right amount of gooey indulgence to the dish. 

Results

The chicken breasts were very moist and flavorful. I like steak sauce, but I very rarely use it on steaks. This was a nice way to incorporate that flavor into a meal. Seven people ages 2 to adult tested this menu and everyone loved it. Next time I might add another side dish or a dessert, but the chicken and vegetables on their own were very satisfying. 

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: 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!