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:

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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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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
  • Print

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

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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.

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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!