Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

Even before Pinterest, my mother was masterful at creating engaging, budget-friendly activities for me and my siblings throughout the Christmas season. Baking cookies and simple candy making were some of our favorite activities. Each child would participate at their level — the older children would do the measuring and mixing, while the younger ones might only add sprinkles or do the taste-testing. It was always a team effort. And, of course, the end results were very tasty.

Following suit, one of the simplest and most engaging kitchen activities that my children and I have enjoyed is making Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles. The inspiration comes from a recipe in a Philadelphia Cream Cheese holiday cook booklet from the 1970s. Calling for a few simple ingredients — cream cheese, powdered sugar and melted chocolate chips — the candy is easy to prepare (adult supervision is essential when melting the chocolate). Once the chocolate is incorporated into the other ingredients and chilled, rolling little balls of chocolate in a variety of colorful holiday sprinkles creates a gift-worthy confection. Whether staying indoors due to the weather or because of Covid, this activity is sure to keep little (and not so little) hands busy. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

  • Servings: 3 - 4 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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  • 1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted OR half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract*
  • Assorted sprinkles

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl using an electric mixer,  cream powdered sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave, stirring every 45 – 60 seconds, until smooth and glossy.
  3. Blend melted chocolate into cream cheese and powdered sugar mixture a little at a time.
  4. Cover and refrigerate candy until firm enough to hold its shape, about one hour.
  5. Shape into one inch balls and roll in sprinkles.

*Note: Alternate extracts and flavorings such as almond, peppermint or cake batter flavoring can be substituted for the vanilla. 

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

An Irish Christmas Blessing

May you be blessed with the spirit of the season

Which is peace,

The gladness of the season

Which is hope,

And the heart of the season

Which is love.

~Unknown

The Tradition

While preparing oyster stew for my family some years ago, I called my mother and asked why we served oyster stew on Christmas Eve. She said that she had simply followed her grandmother’s tradition, besides it was easy to make on what was the busiest night of the year for a mother with young children. That was reason enough, but I was curious about the genesis of the tradition. A little research suggested that this nearly two-hundred-year old tradition was the result of Irish immigrants adapting recipes from their ancestral home to America’s indigenous foods.

Oystering

The Genesis

In the 1800s, even before the renowned potato famine of 1845–1852, Irish immigrants ventured to the United States for a chance to build a new life, bringing with them their culinary traditions and their Irish Catholic customs. In their island homeland, fish was a major part of their diet. Ling fillets (a type of cod), preserved with salt and dried in the open air, were a centuries-long staple of rural fishing communities. Following the Catholic dietary custom of abstaining from eating meat the day before a religious feast, the traditional Irish Christmas Eve meal consisted of a simple stew made of dried ling, milk, butter and pepper. In America, wild oysters made an acceptable substitute for ling with their briny flavor and slightly chewy texture. Oyster stew quickly became popular along the northeast coast of the US where oysters were abundant, easy to harvest and inexpensive. For folks living farther inland, commercially canned oysters were widely available as early as the 1840s. Fresh oysters, however, were only available during the winter months when they could be packed in seaweed, straw and ice and carried by railroad to larger mid-western cities or by steamship to southern ports, arriving just in time for Christmas.

oysters to railcars

Thick or Thin

Through the twentieth century, oyster soup recipes were as popular as oysters themselves. Whether using fresh or canned oysters, soup recipes can be divided into two types — thickened and unthickened — with unthickened soup being the most common. A recipe found in The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 titled Oyster Stew – Unthickened (below) is representative of recipes from the first half of the century (and very similar to the way my mother makes oyster stew). An adaptation of the same recipe is thickened with a roux and seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika (the way I make oyster stew):

OYSTER STEW 001

While researching, it was interesting to note the various methods used in thickening an oyster stew. Of course, a blonde roux, as in the recipe above, was common, as was a reverse roux where a cold paste of butter and flour is stirred into the hot milk and brought to a simmer to thicken. Some soups were thickened with a flour and water paste or a flour and milk paste, but the most unusual thickening agent was tapioca, included in a recipe from General Foods Cook Book 1932 (below). I have used tapioca to thicken stews, but never one with a milk base.

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Other thickeners that caught my eye were dried bread crumbs or crushed cracker crumbs that were added to the hot soup just before serving. Below is a charming recipe written in the home cook’s own words, calling for saltine cracker crumbs. The final paragraph is written by a woman who compiled the recipes and bound them together in a booklet titled Cooking With Grace 1970. “Grace” was Grace Warlow Barr, food editor for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper in Orlando, Florida during the fifties and sixties.

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OYSTER STEW 003

Being fascinated by the recipe above, I used it as inspiration in making a variation of my own Oyster Stew recipe. As mentioned above, I thicken my soup with a roux, but instead of adding flour to the butter, I simply sauteed the vegetables and added the liquid ingredients — half and half, evaporated milk and the oyster liquor from the canned oysters (sadly, fresh oysters are rarely available in our rural area). I then heated the soup to a simmer. After rinsing the oysters to remove any grit, I added them to the hot soup. Just before serving, I ladled the soup into my most “beautiful tureen” (a bright red Dutch-oven) in which I had placed eighteen crushed saltines. Giving the soup a quick stir, I served up bowls of piping hot Oyster Stew. The flavor was exquisite, however, the texture seemed coarse compared to the velvety smooth mouth-feel of soup thickened with a roux. Yet we could not stop eating it. It was that good! In the future I will have a hard time deciding which variation to make (photos of the process below):

Flavorful Additions

Twentieth-century recipes suggested a variety of seasonings to enhance the flavor of oyster stew. The most common being salt, black pepper and paprika. Frequently, recipes called for vegetables and herbs, such as minced onion, chopped celery or celery leaves, or snipped fresh parsley. A few even called for diced potato. Some recipes included bay leaves, celery salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, or Old Bay seasoning. Liquid flavorings such as lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, or hot pepper sauce were also suggested. The most curious ingredients called for were warm spices — nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ground mace and blades of mace. What in the world are blades of mace? According to Google, blades of mace (available on Amazon) are pieces of a web-like covering of dried nutmeg seeds. The flavor is reportedly milder than nutmeg and is commonly used in savory soups, stews and curries. The blades are typically removed before serving just as a bay leaf would be. Ground mace is the same spice in a different form and is a little less expensive than the blades. I have ordered some blades of mace to add to my Christmas Eve Oyster Stew this year. I will report back.

The following is my tried and true Oyster Stew recipe that is thickened with a roux. Alternately, I have included notations for thickening the stew with saltines. Enjoy!

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 (8 oz) cans oysters, (rinse and reserve liquor) OR 2 pints shucked fresh oysters*

  • 1/4 cup (half a cube) butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 Tbsp minced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (omit if thickening with saltines)

  • 1 quart half and half
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • Reserved oyster liquor
  • 1 tsp salt (use a little less if thickening with saltines)

  • Reserved oysters
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 18 crushed saltine cracker squares, if using
  • Paprika for garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Drain oysters reserving liquor. Gently rinse oysters to remove any grit; set aside.
  2. In a six quart Dutch-oven, melt butter over medium heat. Saute prepared celery and onion until limp. Add flour, if using, to butter and vegetables to create a roux. Cook and stir 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in half and half, evaporated milk, reserved oyster liquor and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 – 5 minutes to thicken, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and gently stir in oysters and saltines, if using. Add lemon juice.  Garnish with a dusting of paprika.

*Note: If using fresh oysters, drain, reserving liquor. Gently rinse oysters to remove grit and bits of shell. Saute oysters in several tablespoons of butter until edges of oysters begin to curl. Add liquor and bring to a simmer. Add to prepared soup, season and enjoy.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas. And may the luck of the Irish be with you in 2021. Elaine

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix — 1997

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix — 1997

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix is not a new idea. Many variations can be found on the internet, but I would like to share the recipe that I have used for the past twenty years. Printed in a charming cookbook titled Sweet Surprises for the Holidays 1997, each ingredient is a reminder of the sacrifices made by Pilgrim setters as they struggled to survive in a new land. Tossed together in trail-mix fashion, the salty-sweet mixture is a great pre-Thanksgiving snack.

When my children were growing up, we created a fun tradition of sharing packages of Blessing Mix with our family, friends and neighbors during the month of November. We would simply put the mix in zip-loc bags, but for a fancier presentation, the mix can be scooped into mason jars or other pretty glass jars with a length of ribbon or raffia tied around the neck. We also included a signed note explaining the significance of each ingredient. It’s delightful how something so simple can create so many fun memories. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Bugles brand corn snacks (found in the chip aisle)
  • 2 cups pretzels (traditional twist style)
  • 1 cup candy corn
  • 1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, diced dried apricots)
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds (mixed nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup Goldfish brand crackers (any flavor)

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.

Note: Other ingredients such as dry cereal, miniature crackers, marshmallows or candies (think M&Ms) can also be added.

Recipe Compliments of Sweet Surprises for the Holidays and Cookbooklady.com

The following is the type of message we would include with our Blessing Mix:

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix

Ingredients

  • Bugles — Shaped as a cornucopia, they represent the bounteous blessings we now enjoy.
  • Pretzels — Symbolize our arms folded in prayer and thanksgiving.
  • Candy Corn — Reminds us of the five kernels of corn the Pilgrims were allotted each day during their first winter.
  • Dried Fruit — Represents a bounteous harvest.
  • Nuts and Seeds — Represent the hope of a bounteous harvest next season.
  • Goldfish Crackers — Remind us of the knowledge shared by Native Americans of planting fish along with the seeds to nourish the soil.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tucked inside the Sweet Surprises 1997 cookbook was a “Dear Abby” newspaper clipping from some years ago:

DEAR ABBY 001

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! Elaine

Creamy Pumpkin Pie — 1980

Creamy Pumpkin Pie — 1980

“Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie!”

Lydia Maria Child 1844 — Novelist, Journalist, Poet

I remember Libby’s jingle from when I was a kid — If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label — You will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table, and as Americans, we have loved Libby’s pumpkin pie on our Thanksgiving table for generations. Since the 1950s, home cooks, including my mother and grandmother, have been making pumpkin pies using the recipe printed on the back of the label. Calling for simple ingredients — Libby’s pumpkin, of course, granulated sugar, evaporated milk, spices, and a couple of eggs blended together and baked in a pastry lined-pan — pumpkin pie (with a dollop of whipped cream) is the perfect finishing touch to a Thanksgiving meal.

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MAGIC PUMPKIN PIE 008

Old Recipes Are New Again

Recently, after nearly seventy years of service, Libby’s classic pumpkin pie recipe underwent a makeover (recipe above). How did Libby’s update their recipe? Simply by changing the way the filling is sweetened. Instead of adding granulated sugar to the pie filling, the recipe calls for a can of sweetened condensed milk. (To adjust for the liquid in the condensed milk, the amount of evaporated milk had to be reduced.) That’s it. All the other ingredients stayed exactly the same. Did that make a difference in the flavor of the filling? Absolutely! Something about sweetened condensed milk adds a depth of rich, creamy, almost caramel-y flavor to whatever it’s in. It’s sort of like magic. As a matter of fact, adding sweetened condensed milk to pumpkin pie filling, was not a novel idea in 2019. Borden’s Eagle Brand Milk Company printed a cook booklet in 1952 with a recipe called Magic Pumpkin Pie (below) very similar to Libby’s new recipe. I guess it could be said that recipe developers in corporate test kitchens think alike.

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A Century of Sweeteners

Curious about the sweeteners traditionally used in pumpkin pie, I took to my twentieth-century cookbooks to see what the old recipes could tell me. Of course, many recipes simply called for granulated sugar. However, in the first half of the century, brown sugar was often the sweetener. Sometimes the brown sugar was paired with half granulated sugar, but frequently, it was accompanied by a little molasses or corn syrup — dark or light.

The Modern Family Cook Book 1953 offers two recipes for Pumpkin Pie — one calling for granulated sugar and the other for brown sugar. Recipe #1 also lets the home cook know what a perfect pumpkin pie should look like:

Perfectly baked pumpkin pie has no wrinkles or cracks on its surface. Long slow baking produces a smooth, shiny surface with the true golden pumpkin color.

Meta Givens, The Modern Family Cook Book 1953

A Lost Method

The instructions in recipe #2 are unique. Calling for canned pumpkin, it says to “turn the pumpkin into a saucepan and stir over direct heat (no heat setting is given) until pumpkin is somewhat dried out and has a slightly caramelized appearance.” Evidently this caramelization step has become “lost” as it was not found in any other twentieth-century cookbook. It would be interesting to know if the caramelization adds to the flavor of the pumpkin.

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Unusual Ingredients

Along with the typical eggs, milk, pumpkin, sugar and spices, several recipes included some unusual items in their ingredient list — baking soda, rose water, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon extract, orange juice, brandy or rum, coconut and raisins. Mace and cardamom were each included in a recipe to go along with the traditional cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.

Mid-Century Chiffon Pie

The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966, introduces a new approach to pumpkin pie. Instead of baking the pie in the oven, the filling for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is cooked on the stovetop and cooled, after which beaten egg whites are folded in. The filling is then poured into a gingersnap crumb crust and refrigerated until firm.

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A Lost Recipe

In a recipe book titled America’s Best Lost Recipes 2007 published by the editors of Cook’s Country, a charming story is shared of a young woman who submitted her grandmother’s Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie recipe — a Thanksgiving family favorite — for consideration as part of the publisher’s “lost” recipes project. Grandmother’s recipe made the cut, and after some America’s-Test-Kitchen adjustments, the recipe was included in the book. Sadly, what the reader gets is not grandma’s recipe, but the test kitchen version. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the original recipe.

Found in The Busy Woman’s Cook Book 1971, the recipe for Frozen Pumpkin Pie (below) calls for a quart of softened vanilla ice cream, a cup of pumpkin puree, a little sugar (Cook’s Country suggests using brown sugar) and some spices. Once the filling is blended together and spooned into a baked pastry shell, it is frozen for several hour (or overnight) — so easy. Another suggestion from America’s Test Kitchen was the use of a graham cracker crumb crust as opposed to a pastry shell — even easier. This recipe is going into my “must try” file. I will report on my results.

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Creamy Pumpkin Pie

In the 1980s, I came across a recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Pie in an old church cookbook. I tried it and it has become our Thanksgiving family favorite. The amount of filling this recipe makes is a little too much for a traditional 9″ pie pan, so in the past I either baked the extra custard in a lightly oiled ramekin or reduced the amount of warm water to 3/4 cup. This year I tried using a 9″ deep-dish pie plate and it worked perfectly. In place of the pumpkin pie spice, I make my own combination using cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice (measurements listed below). Enjoy!

Creamy Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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Ingredients

  • 1 (9 inch) deep-dish unbaked pastry shell

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice OR 1 rounded tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and a dash of allspice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450*.
  2. In a two quart mixing bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until light in color. Blend in pumpkin puree and sweetened condensed milk. Mix in pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir in warm water. Pour filling into unbaked pastry shell.
  3. Bake pie on bottom rack for 15 minutes at 450*. Reduce heat to 325* and continue baking 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted off-center comes out clean.
  4. Cool completely before serving. Refrigerate left overs.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Magic Cookie Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

“These are heavenly and should be called ‘Oh-no-I-shouldn’t’ cookies. They’re terribly rich, but terribly good, particularly when served with coffee as a dessert.”

Grace Barr, Orlando Evening Star Food Editor, 1968

The Back Story of Sweetened Condensed Milk

In New York, during the early to mid-1800s , the most dangerous food a child might consume was fluid cow’s milk. With germ theory yet unknown, contaminated milk was a leading cause of child mortality.

The Voyage

Gail Borden
Gail Borden, Jr. 1801 — 1874

Gail Borden, a self-taught food scientist, attended The World’s Fair in London in 1851, where he received awards for his invention of a shelf-stable meat-biscuit (think protein bar). Though revolutionary, the dehydrated meat didn’t sell well because of its unpleasant taste. While on his return voyage to New York, Mr. Borden witnessed first-hand the horrors that raw milk could hold. Two dairy cows were brought on board the ship to provide milk for immigrant babies whose families had booked passage to America. During the journey, the cattle became sick with an infectious disease and died. In turn, the children fell ill and lay dying in their mother’s arms. Mr. Borden was moved with compassion.

The Quest

Upon his return, Borden immersed himself in the development of a sanitary shelf-stable baby formula. With no knowledge of germs or bacteria, Borden knew something needed to be done to stop the “incipient decomposition of milk.” First, he boiled cow’s milk in a pot to reduce the amount of liquid to make it more transportable. Then he added sugar. Unfortunately, the result of boiling milk in an open vessel was a burned, bad-tasting mass. Having learned the hard way with his meat-biscuit, Bordon knew that taste and appearance would be key to the success of his product. He went back to the drawing board.

The Science

vac pan drawing

Hearing about a curious way that Shaker’s processed medicinal herbs by boiling them in an enclosed vacuum pan, Mr. Borden arranged to spend some time with them to learn about the process. He tried the vacuum method with milk, which resulted in a pleasant tasting product with a creamy milk-like appearance. By boiling the milk in an enclosed vacuum pan, it killed any bacteria that was present and prevented any other bacterial exposure during the cooking process. Bordon also discovered that by adding a substantial amount of sugar,  the shelf-life of the milk was greatly extended since bacteria cannot grow in such a sugary mixture.

Cook’s Science 2016 from the editors of America’s Test Kitchen explains that sweetened condensed milk has 60% of the water removed and has 40% to 45% added sugar. The editors note that an open can of sweetened condensed milk can be left at room temperature for several weeks without spoiling.

The Patent

1922_Eagle_Brand_newspaper_ad
Borden Newspaper Ad 1922

Borden did not understand the science behind the process he had developed. He just knew that it stopped the decomposition of milk, it tasted good and kept for a long time. His application for a patent on the vacuum boiling process was denied for several years due to the lack of scientific knowledge to understand what he had actually done. In time, science caught up, and in 1856, Borden was awarded the patent he sought. Little by little, the new baby formula began to catch on and is credited with saving the lives of thousands of children. Sweetened condensed milk was to be Gail Borden’s greatest accomplishment.

The Fortune

Always a man of hard work and humble means, Borden’s fortune was finally made in 1861, when the U.S. Government ordered sweetened condensed milk as part of the rations for the Union army during the Civil War. Canned, compact, and calorie-dense, the rich fluid served the soldiers well, not only through the Civil war but also during WWI. Sweetened condensed milk was later included in the foodstuffs dropped into besieged West Germany during the Berlin Airlift of the late 1940s. Returning soldiers shared their enthusiasm for the product, and “Borden’s Milk” was on its way to becoming a pantry staple.

The Legacy

coffe tea and chocolate

Advertising was important to the Borden company from the beginning. First, for baby formula, then as soldiers and their families began enjoying sweetened condensed milk in their coffee and tea, the company’s advertising pivoted from filling a nutritional need to becoming the quintessential ingredient in making desserts from ice cream to fruitcake. The printed advertisements exploded from black and white scientific-style ads in newspapers to full-page colored ads in magazines. During the mid-1960s, a recipe for Borden’s Magic Cookie Bars, with sweetened condensed milk as the “magic” ingredient, burst onto the baking scene, and desserts have never been the same.

The Recipe — 1970s

While researching this article, I was interested to learn how the recipe for Magic Cookie Bars has changed over the years. In a magazine ad from the 1970s (below), the recipe calls for one cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate or butterscotch morsels, a 3 oz can or 1-1/3 cup flaked coconut, and a 15 oz can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. The directions say to melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan before pouring it into the baking dish to be mixed with the graham cracker crumbs. The order given for layering the remaining ingredients is illustrated in the ad with sweetened condensed milk poured over the top.

Vintage-recipe-layered-magic-cookie-bars-750x929

The Recipe — 1999

In a magazine ad from 1999 (below), the recipe for Magic Cookie Bars instructs the baker to preheat the oven to 325* if using a glass pan. The butter or margarine is to be melted in the baking pan in the oven, then combined with the graham cracker crumbs or chocolate cookie crumbs. The sweetened condensed milk is then poured over the crumb crust with the other ingredients layered on top. The can size of sweetened condensed milk was reduced to 14 ounces, and the recipe doubled the amount of chocolate chips to twelve ounces. Yum! Once layered, the home cook is instructed to “press down firmly with a fork” to bind the ingredients together. Some substitutions are suggested at the bottom of the recipe — mini M&Ms, dried cranberries, raisins, mini marshmallows or butterscotch chips. Its evident that part of the “magic” in Magic Cookie Bars is the variety of ways the recipe can be personalized. Several Christmas’s ago, a coworker substituted white chocolate chips and Craisins for the usual semi-sweet chocolate chips. They were amazing! It seems that Magic Cookie Bars are limited only by one’s imagination.

Magic Cookie Bars

A Final Note: Not everyone calls these bars Magic Cookie Bars. Sometimes they are called Seven Layer Bars, Hello Dollies, Coconut Dream Bars or Screaming Eagles. I call them delicious!

Taffy Apple Dip — 1985

Taffy Apple Dip — 1985

In the 1980s, I listened to a radio show broadcast from Salt Lake City called The Gabby Gourmet. Fredric Wix, the Gabby Gourmet, a retired marine who loved cooking, helped pioneer the concept of gourmet cooking at home. Fred moved from radio to television when he was invited to host a cooking spot on KUTV’s midday news broadcast. Highly successful in both mediums, The Gabby Gourmet went on to publish a cookbook that is now out of print and highly collectible; however, some of his cooking videos are available for viewing on YouTube.

Mr. Wix shared the recipe for Taffy Apple Dip one day when I happened to be tuned in. I quickly wrote it down, and I have been serving it ever since, especially in the fall when the apples are ripe and fresh and crispy. Adults, as well as, children enjoy this dip, and it is much easier to make and eat than caramel apples. I serve the dip either at room temperature or a bit warmer, but it must be stored in the refrigerator. To jazz things up, a sprinkling of salt flakes over the caramel creates a delightfully sweet and salty contrast. Enjoy!

Taffy Apple Dip

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened-condensed milk

Directions

  1. Spray the inside of a 1.5 quart saucepan with cooking spray, add butter and melt over medium heat.
  2. Stir in corn syrup, brown sugar and kosher salt; bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 2–3 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Remove pan from heat and blend in sweetened-condensed milk; set aside to cool.
  4. Serve with apple slices.
  5. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Serving Option: For a salted caramel dip, sprinkle a few flakes of coarse salt over dip before serving.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com and The Gabby Gourmet

Waldorf Salad — 1896

Waldorf Salad — 1896

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.”

~Welsh Proverb

Oscar PhotographAs a young man of sixteen, Oscar Tschirky immigrated to America from Switzerland with his mother in 1883 to join his older brother in New York City  where they hoped to make a better life. Within a day of his arrival, Oscar landed a job as a busboy in the Hoffman House, an elegant hotel in the city. Five years later he was manager of a dining room in Delmonico’s, the best restaurant in New York, where he refined the skills necessary to become the Matre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (soon to become the Waldorf-Astoria). Hired before the hotel opened in 1893, he was essential in stocking supplies, hiring staff and developing management systems. Oscar, himself, turned the key on opening day and went on to become the”face” of the Waldorf-Astoria during his fifty-year career. Ironically, beloved by heads-of-state, Hollywood types and business tycoons, Oscar’s lasting claim to fame was the Waldorf salad. 

Waldorf Cookbook coverThough not a chef, just three years after the opening of the Waldorf, Oscar published a 900-page cookbook titled The Cook Book by “Oscar” of the Waldorf  1896 which includes a now-ubiquitous recipe for Waldorf Salad. Calling for three simple ingredients, apples, celery and a good mayonnaise (recipe below), it seems much too humble for the glitz and glamour of New York high society, but the salad had had a victorious debut at a gala event planned and overseen by Oscar coinciding with the opening of the hotel.  

Waldorf Salad

Coming upon a copy of Oscar’s original Waldorf Salad recipe (above), I was disappointed that no particular variety of apple was suggested. It would be interesting to experience the exact flavor profile of the original.

Also being curious about the adaptation of the recipe over the past one hundred years, I researched nearly two dozen twentieth-century cookbooks. Interestingly I found that most of them contained a recipe for Waldorf Salad, many very similar to the original version, with some specifying red-skinned apples. The only twentieth-century cookbook, Cooking In Quilt Country 1989, that mentions using a particular variety of apple calls for Jonathan or McIntosh. Either apple may well have been the variety that Oscar used as they both grew prolifically in New York state at that time. Perhaps part of the charm and longevity of this recipe is that the home cook can personalize it simply by the variety of apple he or she uses.

Chopped Nuts

One of the earliest adaptations of Waldorf Salad is the addition of chopped nuts — walnuts usually, but also pecans as mentioned in The Joy of Cooking 1931 by Irma Rombauer. Curiously, her recipe is one of the few that suggest peeling the apples before chopping. The Waldorf Salad recipe found in The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 (below) stays true to Oscar’s original recipe except for the now classic addition of chopped nuts:

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What’s In the Dressing

Another common adaptation to Waldorf Salad is the dressing, especially early in the century when commercial mayonnaise was in its infancy. Martha Meade’s Modern Meal Maker 1939 contains a recipe-ette called Apple and Celery Salad, but its confusing. How is the one cup shredded lettuce intended to be used — mixed in with the salad or as the lettuce cups — Hmmm. The Golden Dressing is the intriguing part of this recipe (below). Its fussy, but maybe not as fussy as homemade mayonnaise. And it sounds delish (recipe below).

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Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966 suggests adding whipped cream to the mayonnaise dressing. She also suggest using unpared red-skinned apples (recipe below):

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Before salad dressings were readily available in grocery stores, cooks made them at home so older recipes frequently call for a “cooked” or “boiled” dressing. A recipe for Waldorf Salad (below) printed in General Foods Cook Book 1932 containing apples, celery and nuts calls for Cooked Salad Dressing made of thickened mustard, sugar, egg yolks, vinegar and milk — sweet or sour:

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A curious dressing for Waldorf Salad comes from a recipe found in The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 which calls for a French vinaigrette to dress the apples, celery and walnuts. The salad is served on lettuce leaves and topped with a dollop of mayonnaise. 

Adding Variety

Mid-century home cooks began expressing their creativity by including additional fruits in their Waldorf Salad. The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963 is a perfect example of this. The recipe titled Pear Waldorf Salad (recipe below) suggests substituting fresh peeled and diced pears in place of apples in an otherwise typical Waldorf Salad. Being intrigued by this recipe and canning pears at the time, I decided to give it a try. It was delicious! Bartlett pears, however, are softer and juicier than apples causing the salad to break down quickly. If I were to make it again, I would follow the recipe’s alternate suggestion of using half apples and half pears. Notice the other inclusions in Pear Waldorf Salad — fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple, banana cubes (a strange term) or one cup sectioned oranges, and one cup grapes. The final adaptation of this recipe takes us full circle to the classic Waldorf Salad with unpared red apples, chopped celery, and walnuts tossed with a mayonnaise dressing and embellished with a half cup of raisins.

WALDORF SALAD 003

The final Waldorf Salad entry is a recipe found in Farm Journal’s Busy Woman’s Cookbook 1971 titled Waldorf Variation Salad — an appropriate title for nearly all twentieth-century Waldorf Salad recipes. It takes a citrus-y spin with frozen lemonade concentrate as the dressing (recipe below):

WALDORF SALAD 001

My Waldorf Salad recipe is fairly traditional, calling for apples, celery, and chopped pecans with a mayonnaise dressing sweetened with a little honey. Sometimes I add a handful of raisins or dried cranberries for flavor and texture. It is a delightfully crisp Autumn salad that is a nice addition to a salad bar or as a side dish. The variety of apple that I often use is Honeycrisp because of its thin, tender red skin. Older varieties such as sweet-tart Jonathon or McIntosh are also tasty choices. For a lighter version of the dressing, a thick plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of the mayo, but the salad will be missing its wonderful piquant flavor. Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3–4 large red-skinned apples
  • Juice from a half lemon OR a sprinkling of Fruit Fresh
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery

  • 1/2–3/4 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1–2 Tbsp honey (adjust to your taste)

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions

  1. Dice apples and sprinkle with lemon juice or Fruit Fresh; set aside. Finely chop celery and mix with apples in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, blend honey with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. Drizzle dressing over apples and celery; toss to coat.
  3. Fold in chopped pecans, reserving some for garnish, add raisins or dried cranberries if desired.
  4. Chill until ready to serve.

Note: Yogurt dressing begins to break down quickly so plan to serve the salad no more than an hour after preparing. The mayonnaise dressing is more stable.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

 

Summer Tomato Salad

Summer Tomato Salad

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato”.

Lewis Grizzard

A recipe from Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking 1974 called French Tomato Salad has been the inspiration for a a flavorful addition to my catered salad bars. The recipe calls for six thinly sliced tomatoes arranged overlapping on a serving plate and poured over with a French (vinaigrette) dressing and sprinkled with minced shallots or thinly sliced green onions.

Also taking inspiration from the 1950s Italian Caprese Salad consisting of sliced tomatoes, sliced mozzarella cheese (made with buffalo milk if you want to be authentic), fresh basil and olive oil (Americans often add a little balsamic vinegar as well to give the salad some zip), I have created a hybrid version of these two recipes that is colorful and packed with flavor. I call it Summer Tomato Salad (with or without mozzarella cheese). During late summer when fresh tomatoes are at their peak, I serve this salad often and I sometimes even make a light meal of it for myself (recipe below). Enjoy!

Summer Tomato Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 fresh medium-size tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves or more as needed
  • Optional: 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced (my favorite)

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced

Directions

  1. Thinly slice tomatoes and arrange overlapping in shallow serving dish.  Carefully insert a basil leaf in between each of the tomato slices. (If using, insert a slice of mozzarella in between each of the tomato slices then insert a basil leaf between each tomato and cheese slice). Sprinkle finely chopped sweet onion over tomatoes.
  2. In a small shaker jar, combine dressing ingredients, shake well and pour over vegetables (and mozzarella). Refrigerate salad for at least two hours to blend flavors. Serve cold.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

School Lunches — 1948 (Tuna and Cream Cheese Sandwiches)

School Lunches — 1948 (Tuna and Cream Cheese Sandwiches) <p class="has-drop-cap has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">We have come to the time of year in the northwest when the bounties of summer are being harvested and preserved. My green beans and tomatoes have been canned, the peppers have been roasted and put in the freezer, the peaches and pears are in jars lining the pantry shelves and the local grain has been harvested. Just around the corner, the apples will be ready to pick and process into applesauce and pie filling, the onions and potatoes are ready to be dug, the pumpkins are turning orange and the county fair has come and gone. Our blissful daytime temperatures are in the 80s with our nighttime temps flirting with freezing and the children have gone back to school (although school in 2020 looks somewhat non-traditional).We have come to the time of year in the northwest when the bounties of summer are being harvested and preserved. My green beans and tomatoes have been canned, the peppers have been roasted and put in the freezer, the peaches and pears are in jars lining the pantry shelves and the local grain has been harvested. Just around the corner, the apples will be ready to pick and process into applesauce and pie filling, the onions and potatoes are ready to be dug, the pumpkins are turning orange and the county fair has come and gone. Our blissful daytime temperatures are in the 80s with our nighttime temps flirting with freezing and the children have gone back to school (although school in 2020 looks somewhat non-traditional).

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Early in my elementary career, schools across America began experimenting with school lunch or hot lunch as we called it. Today school lunch is as American as apple pie, but up until then, generations of children brought their lunches from home. While reading from an old cookbook — <em>Watkins Cook Book</em> 1948, I discovered some advice, albeit dated, for packing a child's lunch box. Early in my elementary career, schools across America began experimenting with school lunch or hot lunch as we called it. Today school lunch is as American as apple pie, but up until then, generations of children brought their lunches from home. While reading from an old cookbook — Watkins Cook Book 1948, I discovered some advice, albeit dated, for packing a child’s lunch box.

The Lunch Box

Throughout most of the twentieth century, cookbooks were seen as a way of educating housewives on food safety, nutrition and technique. If the cookbook was sponsored by a food production company, one would also find nouveau recipes and methods for using their products. Watkins Cook Book 1948 is one of these cookbooks. Intertwined in the advice and advertising we can catch a glimpse of how lunches might have been prepared and what American school children might have been eating post WWII:

  • A lunch should be packed in a well-ventilated, sanitary container to protect the food and to keep it compact and odorless upon opening (is that possible with a tuna fish sandwich?). Waxed paper should be used to wrap all food, and covered jelly glasses (remember those in our grandmothers’ cupboard) are excellent to use for baked beans, vegetable salad, applesauce, baked apple or for a pudding. Highly-seasoned and rich foods should not be placed in a lunch box.
  • Milk in some form should be included in the daily school lunch — either plain milk, malted milk, or hot or cold Watkins Cocoa, which may be carried in a pint milk bottle or in a thermos bottle, using a straw for drinking. Fresh fruit in season is appetizing and healthful.
  • Hard cooked eggs, cooked 30 minutes (yes the book says 30 minutes), are as digestible as soft-boiled. Peeled, wrapped in a lettuce or cabbage leaf and waxed paper, they will make an appetizing salad. Cooked vegetables as a salad add a note of interest to a box lunch. Raw carrot sticks or celery sticks made crisp in cold water, dried and wrapped in waxed paper make a tasty accompaniment to a meat sandwich. Do not pack hot creamed meat, fish and poultry dishes as the food may sour when kept warm for several hours.
  • The lunch box should contain sandwiches, a raw vegetable, a relish, fruit, pudding, cookies and a beverage (More on a complete school lunch below).
  • If sandwiches are to be kept a long time, do not use lettuce or other salad greens. Use a mayonnaise dressing as the oil will not soak into the bread.
  • For making sandwiches in quantities, wrap them in a napkin dipped in hot water and wrung dry. Or wrap in waxed paper and fasten with a rubber band.

Sandwich Fillings

Watkins Cook Book 1948 offers the following suggestions for sandwich fillings. I wonder how popular or even practical some of these suggestions were back then, however, a #7 on wheat toast sounds pretty good.

A Compete School Lunch with Advertising

Extending the suggestions for sandwich filling, Watkins Cook Book 1948 lists ten ideas for complete school lunches (mixed with a little advertising). I wonder about the feasibility of these lunches as they seem quite labor intensive and unrealistic. However my mother-in-law packed her children’s lunches with sandwiches made from homemade bread well into the 70s…then she would go out and milk the cows (No kidding!) It also seems like a lot of food for a child.

Tuna and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

school lunch 001Most of the time when I took a cold lunch or sack lunch to school, it contained a tuna sandwich on store-bought white bread and that wasn’t bad. I actually liked them especially with potato chips placed under the top slice of bread just before eating. It makes me hungry just thinking about it. A number of years ago I purchased a cookbook that I often refer to — Cooking from Quilt Country 1989 by Marcia Adams — featuring Amish and Mennonite recipes. This book contains a recipe for a tuna salad with cream cheese, toasted pecans and lemon juice. I adapted the recipe and served these sandwiches at a women’s luncheon a few years ago. The ladies enjoyed them and many asked for a copy of the recipe. Thankfully the tuna fish sandwich is not obsolete, it has just had a makeover. (Well drained canned chicken can be substituted for the tuna as well). Enjoy!

Tuna and Cream Cheese Sandwiches - 1989

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 (7 oz) cans tuna OR a (13 oz) can chicken, well drained
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery OR black olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • 12 slices white bread
  • Softened butter

Directions

  1. In a medium mixer bowl, combine the cream cheese, lemon juice and mayonnaise; blend well.
  2. Fold in tuna or chicken, chopped celery, pecans and salt and pepper. Chill filling for several hours.
  3. Spread filling on lightly buttered bread. Garnish with lettuce if desired.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbooklady.com

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing

Heaven is a homegrown cucumber. ~Alys Fowler

Cucumbers taste like summertime. Simply sliced with a sprinkling of salt or added to a green salad they are a refreshing bite. We are all familiar with the classic Cucumber Salad made with  slices of fresh cucumber marinated in vinegar and salt and pepper. Its a recipe that has been around for generations. In this post, I’m sharing another favorite cucumber recipe — Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing. It is a combination of sliced cucumbers and leeks seasoned with fresh garlic and dill and marinated in a sour cream dressing. I have served this dish as a part of a catered salad bar and as a summer side-dish and it is a crowd pleaser. Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 large English cucumber, sliced

6 – 8 slices of leek, white part only

Dressing:

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tsp seasoned rice vinegar

1/2 tsp dried dill weed

1/4 tsp seasoning salt (my favorite)

1 small clove garlic, minced

Dash of kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

Peel cucumber, if desired, and cut in 1/4″ slices. Thinly slice leeks and toss vegetables together in a bowl; set aside.

To prepare dressing, whisk together sour cream and seasoned rice vinegar in a small bowl. Stir in minced garlic, seasoning salt, dill weed, salt and pepper.

Toss cucumbers and leeks with prepared dressing. Refrigerate for two hours or more in an air-tight container to allow flavors to blend. Serve cold and garnish with additional dill weed.

Option: For a tasty and colorful addition, slice a fresh Roma tomato in 1/4″ slices and add to the dressed cucumbers and leeks.

Recipe compliments of Cookbooklady.com