Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some appetizers that might reach out and grab you...

Have you ever wanted to serve something exotic and tentacled at a party, but lacked the courage (and intestinal fortitude) to work with raw squid and/or octopus? Have you ever wanted appetizers to double as decorations in an ocean-themed get-together?

If you've answered "yes" to either of those questions, Elizabeth Price's The Better Hostess Series Hors d'Oevres & Appetizers (1978) has the perfect solution for you!

If your guests are easily scared and you want something non-threatening, you can't miss with this little number:

While the splayed tentacles may be initially unsettling, the limp and droopy center should reassure guests that this little guy can't get up to too much trouble. (In any case, the sea cucumber in a ball gown seems to be keeping an eye on it too.)

If you want something a little more flashy, though, something that might convince guests to clear out at the end of the evening with flashes of threatening red and prominent suckers, this is probably more your speed:

It's even threatening to defend itself with a bucket of green slime if necessary. This is sure to make everyone back away slowly.

So what would you pay for oceanic-looking recipes of this caliber? $19.99? $29.99?

Since you're my friend, I will give them to you for free, so long as you promise not to serve them to ME:

Well, actually the filling for the celery sounds pretty good. If you serve it with some crackers, then you might have something worth eating!

The tuna fish peppers are all yours, though....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Salads with awkward pointy bits

Today we're going to laugh at some old salad recipes even though they are Jell-O free! Instead, our theme from Betty Crocker's Hostess Cookbook (1967) is salads with awkward pointy bits.

The picture for this one makes me laugh because someone clearly put a lot of work into composing the layers, but the finished product just looks like someone tried to pass off a compost heap as a salad by edging it in sliced hard cooked eggs and throwing in a few skewers full of pepperoni and olives.

There is just something comical about the celery tops shooting off in every direction and the green onions swimming upstream. The name for this construction is terrific, too:

Kabobed Antipasto Salad! I just love "kabobed." It sounds like a death in Strongbad's Teen Girl Squad comics.


In comparison, our other dish today looks fairly sedate:

The fruit plate looks good-- nice berries, grapes, melon balls, various dipping sauces. The pineapple in the middle looks like a colorful little porcupine. And that is where I would have a problem because I would assume the toothpicks are meant to spear the fruit on the platter. There are no tongs or spoons, after all. Here's the real plan:

The pineapple is actually a "Pineapple Tower" cut into pieces and reassembled with the toothpicks keeping the pieces stuck to the core. If I were at the party and the first person to touch the fruit tray, here's what would happen: I'd want a toothpick so I could spear a few strawberries. I'd try to pull out a toothpick and the pineapple would come with it. I would be totally freaked out for nearly ruining the centerpiece, shove the pineapple back where it came from, and get as far away from the whole thing as possible (preferably in another room or maybe another house!) in the hopes that no one would know I was the dummy who nearly ruined the adorable porcupinapple.

Then half an hour later I would go back to the room, see the leftover pineapple core, and realize that I was just the dummy who couldn't figure out that we were allowed to eat the pineapple too. The joys of being socially awkward....

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sticky angels and cannibal brownies!

After all those franks on Tuesday, it's time for a little dessert fun. Today's treats come from Betty Crocker's Outdoor Cook Book (1961).

Some of the "fun" of eating outdoors is having various animals try to make off with the food. Of course, there are the stereotypical ants at a picnic. Canada geese can be pretty aggressive. When I was in college, my friends and I went to the zoo, brought a picnic lunch, and spent the entire time we were trying to eat it fending off a gaggle of geese. They actually bit a few of my friends when they thought we were being too stingy, but luckily I escaped their notice....

Pet owners are familiar with pleading puppy dog eyes when there are goodies to be had. What if you are not so "fortunate" to have animals begging, pleading, and/or stealing? You can make your own!


Shaggy dogs! Toast a marshmallow and dip it into chocolate sauce and shredded coconut. I'm not sure how it's supposed to come out as cute as the illustration, but the name alone is sure to charm kids (at least, the ones who don't equate shredded coconut to pencil shavings coated with sunblock).

But what if you need dessert, have day-old bread, and no ambition to make bread pudding? This book has the perfect solution:

I'm starting to think "We can put some coconut on that!" is the '60s equivalent of "We Can Pickle That!"

I think my favorite for sheer weirdness that still sounds pretty yummy is this:

Toast a marshmallow in the middle of a doughnut! I'm not enamored with angels, but if they wear doughnut and toasted marshmallow halos, they might not be so bad. (I'll bet that makes the feathers on their wings super-sticky, though. Getting feathers stuck to pretty much anything they come near must make them unwelcome guests pretty quickly.)

And finally, since no discussion of barbecue desserts is complete without S'Mores:

Brownie S'Mores! Being eaten by brownies, I guess? Does this constitute cannibalism? This cookbook is convincing me that legendary creatures are much weirder than I give them credit for....

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Hotdog Centipede, Nutty Puppies, and Other Frankly Interesting Recipes

Since grilling season unofficially starts this weekend, I decided to make today hot dog day (or "Frankfurter Day," as the book prefers)! As an avowed condiment hater, I maintain that the only correct way to eat a hot dog is to slit it down the middle and stuff in a strip of cheese so it can melt a little and enhance the beautiful smoky flavor.... I know I'm in the minority on this view, though, so let's see what Better Homes & Gardens Barbecue Book (1967) recommends.

I love this one just because it looks so funny:

I'd call it "The Hotdog Centipede," but the more staid Better Homes-approved name is "Cheese-Frankfurter Loaf."

And if I could leave out the chili-sauce based spread, this would actually meet my idea of good dogs since they are covered in nice, melty cheese! (Process American cheese of course, but still... Cheese!)

This recipe has the extra fun of being a craft project: cutting the French loaf to specifications, adding the frank halves at "jaunty" angles, and skewering it all together before wrapping in foil to grill.

I love this next recipe because it's a craft project too:

Hot dogs on a clothes hanger! Or, as the book prefers to call them, "Puppet Franks":

I love the way the name captures the craft-project feel, and I love imagining the process of walking through a party carrying clothes hangers laden with strings of sausages, proffering scissors to guests and inviting them to cut off as many wieners as they want. If I felt nice, I'd warn them to take the string out before eating, but I'd probably just let them assume the franks were held together by a casing and watch as they tried to deal with a mouthful of string.

(Someone truly evil would save the hanger and hang someone else's shirt on it later, thereby coating the interior in barbecue sauce and ruining the morning.)

I found the hot dog equivalent of a turducken, too (although there is unfortunately no picture):

Hot dogs stuffed with ham spread and then wrapped in bacon! Three types of meat in one little roll.

Even though I am a peanut butter enthusiast, I'm not sold on this recipe:

If chunky peanut butter and relish with your frank isn't enough, make your nutty pup with a "Frank Wrap-up":

Yes, adding bacon was apparently popular in 1967 too. Somehow, I'm suddenly feeling a bit surprised that a "Nutty Puppy Wrap-up" isn't on the seasonal menu at Denny's....

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shut up and eat your bird seed....

Since I was thinking about sad substitutes in my last post, I thought it was time to check back in to one of my favorite categories of sad special diet recipes: old-school vegetarian.

Our recipes this week come from A Collection of the Very Finest Recipes Ever Assembled Into One Cookbook (1979). Given the modest title, one hopes that this collection will do better than the flavorless protein loaves featured so prominently in other books.

That would be a bit much to ask, though, wouldn't it? Greasy and nearly flavorless vegetable-based doorstops were a fixture, and no collection would be complete without at least one. Even the lackluster directions suggest no one wants to waste time on this, so let's see if there's something more creative.

Okay, so the title doesn't scream "creative." It only seems marginally accurate, too. Yes, this recipe does consist mainly of vegetables, but calling celery, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, and mushroom cooked with a bit of bell pepper and green onion in some bouillon a "dinner" is a bit of a stretch. (And we'll pretend we didn't notice that the bouillon cube is beef, by the way.) There's no heft or substance-- no grains, beans, tofu, anything. The plate of iceberg lettuce and baked potato that steakhouses scrounge up for the vegetarians whose families have strong-armed them into going out for dad's birthday is more satisfying than this.

At least more restaurants have a veggie burger now. I couldn't find any veggie burgers in this cookbook, but I did find a lower evolutionary stage of veggie burgers:

If the name "Oatmeal Cottage Cheese Patties" isn't enough to make your mouth water, maybe the knowledge that they are baked under a sauce of cream of mushroom soup with evaporated milk will help. No? You could use tomato soup instead of mushroom if you want! Still no? Picky, picky.

If you think these recipes are for the birds, then maybe you're confusing them with this one:

It's "Bird Seed" Stuffed Peppers! And yes, millet really is a major component of many bird seed mixes. Cook millet, mix with onions, mushrooms, seasonings, eggs, and cottage cheese, and stuff into peppers to bake.

It's weird to say, but bird seed looks like the best of all the options. Just call me Tweety....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A "diet" recipe with more calories than the real thing!

If nothing else, this blog shows me again and again how lucky people with specialized diets are to live now, and not several decades ago.

Today's exhibit from the promotional pamphlet "Golden Good Cooking with Betty Crocker's Saff-o-life Safflower Oil: Recipes for Special Diets Using Oil" (1966) shows a bit more balance than some of the others. I'll start with something that looks luscious for a change:


It's pretty hard to hate crunchy-topped, cinnamony coffee cake or muffins sparkling with bright-red jelly (even if the caption specifies that the jelly is "dietetic"). The recipes don't sound terrible, even if they do substitute oil for butter and egg whites for whole eggs:

Then one's eye stops at "Saff-o-spread."

(I will pause here and allow you to spend a moment giggling about and/or enjoying any images that come to mind based on the name alone.)

This homemade substitute for butter is basically vegetable oil pumped full of nonfat dry milk and water, emulsified with a bit of cornstarch. It sounds like a lot of work and expense for a spread (with basically the same number of calories per tablespoon as butter) that will be at least as disappointing as the cheap and ready-to-use butter substitutes stocking the supermarket today.

The substitute would likely have significantly less saturated fat than butter, though, so that's something in its favor. An even less helpful recipe appears on an earlier page:

The end proudly notes mock sour cream has only 36 calories per tablespoon, which might have sounded like a good savings in the days before mandatory calorie labeling. However, real sour cream only has about 30 calories per tablespoon. This recipe may save a bit of saturated fat, but considering that it's based on (whole milk) cottage cheese and sour cream has only about 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon (compared to 7 for butter), this is a lot of work for a presumably disappointing product that will give diners more calories and little, if any, saving in saturated fat.

Betty is pushing hard for home cooks to consider her oil to be the "Saff-o-life" (Har!) for those who need low-cal or low-animal-fat diets, but I call bullshit.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Let's ruin some homemade goodies in one simple step!

I am not going to make fun of the foods themselves in today's post. Take, for example, this picture. It may not look too bad at first glance:
The more you look, though, the more you should suspect that something is not quite right. The cheese is melty and stringy, but it looks almost poured on. There is no delicate brown crust on top of it like a good, home-baked pizza would have. The crust is oddly yellow, not golden-brown. And wait a minute-- it's not being served from a pizza pan. It's on a glass plate. I'll bet you've guessed the trick by now:

Yes, this recipe is from Betty Crocker's Microwave Cookbook (1981), when microwaves were still enough of a novelty that cookbook writers had to pretend microwaves were great for cooking absolutely everything so readers could justify the cost to themselves. Reheating leftovers was not worth the price they paid, so the thing damn well better do more than that. So yeah-- the cookbook promises they can make a homemade pizza in the microwave.

Of course, we make pizza in the microwave now, but it's crappy frozen pizza that's designed to be microwaved. It's usually pretty bad, but we knew that going in. The draw is that it's quick and cheap. The attraction of a homemade pizza should be that it's good. It will take a little extra time, but the time will be worthwhile. This recipe manages to combine the bad sides of homemade pizza (time consuming, requires multiple ingredients and at least some level of skill) with the bad side of microwaving (poor quality, especially if one wants, say, a crispy crust and nicely browned cheese) to make something that's clearly a waste of everyone's time.

And the pizza is not the only food subjected to this treatment. Try looking at these muffins for a moment:

They're kind of pretty: filled with bright berries or topped with streusel or orange marmalade. They also look kind of sad, though: flat, pale tops and interiors that look less fluffy than gummy. So what goes into making these slumpy wonders?

Again, I have no problem with reheating a few muffins in the microwave. It's a good way to get stale or frozen muffins to taste fresh-out-of-the-oven-ish, if your mouth squints a little. If I were going to take the time and effort to make them from scratch, though, there is no way I would "bake" them in the microwave.

Betty's optimism about the microwave's abilities knew no bounds, though. Microwaving could even work for occasions calling for cake:

Frost them, and these sad, deflated little cakes (which need the frosting just to reach the top of the cupcake paper) can make any grown-up's birthday just a little more depressing. Leave unfrosted, and they are sad, deflated muffins.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Of (Odd) Pies We Sing

I should have come across the recipes for this entry closer to Pi Day, but what can I do? I don't feel like holding out that long, so today's post features "Of Pie We Sing," an article from the October 1941 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I mostly write about cookbooks because they're easier to find, but I'm so excited when I find an old magazine with recipes that I can't wait for a seasonally appropriate day!

There are plenty of old standbys in the article, like deep dish apple pie and lemon chiffon, but my eye was caught by these two:

Okay, the one on the left is just a pumpkin pie, but what is the star on top? I could almost imagine pineapple wedges, but that doesn't look quite right (and would probably be too expensive for families on the cusp of World War II anyway). Hmmm....

American cheese! Of course! The go-to meal enhancer for recipes where Jell-O wouldn't seem quite right (or perhaps, where it would seem even more wrong than usual).... I've heard of putting a slice of cheddar on apple pie, but the American cheese star on pumpkin is new to me. Next Thanksgiving, try putting some Kraft singles instead of Cool Whip on the pumpkin pie and see how that plays out.

Now what about the pie on top-- the one with the swirled filling topped with walnut halves and pretty little swag edging on the crust?

It's walnut-prune pie! Prunes are another ingredient that are far more popular in old recipes than their taste would seem to merit. I suspect they were the equivalent of kale in today's recipes. Home cooks could throw a few into any recipe they wanted to make and pretend the prunes (or kale) made the food suddenly healthy. Of course prunes negate all the whipping cream and heavy syrup in the filling, not to mention shortening in the crust. (Just like kale makes grilled cheese sandwiches or mashed potatoes with bacon into nutrition powerhouses today.)

I have to appreciate the power of self-delusion.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Lamb for a week

A new month! And though May feels distressingly like April so far, it may eventually turn into something resembling a real spring.... I'm hoping I can take the fleece sheets and electric blanket off the bed one of these days!

A new month means it is once again time for Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar (1962)! What's fresh this month?

I always thought I hated asparagus when I was a kid, but now I realize my mom just made it in a disgusting way. She liked making "creamed" asparagus that was really just overcooked asparagus in milk thickened with a little flour. It was overcooked, gray, slimy, and bland. Now I like asparagus roasted, cut up, and mixed in with whatever else I might be making to give it a hint of spring.

Rhubarb is the celery of the fruit world, which is a reference not only to its shape, but also the way I feel about it. I understand other people like it, but I can't manage more than a "meh." If you can get excited about rhubarb, I'm happy for you.

What recipe should represent May? This picture helped me make up my mind:

It looks quite festive with the peach halves and mint to give pops of color, and the nice paper frill on the bone to help disguise the fact that one is, in fact, chopping up a leg.

The instructions are pretty simple:

If you like the instructions on what to do with the leftovers, the book even helpfully provides recipes to go with Monday and Thursday's menus:

Happy spring! Kill a lamb!