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

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