Slice of Pie Tablescapes Series #3

Take a look at this blog post for my Thanksgiving 2014 Ruby Red tablescape!  It all started with a red satin place mat!




Slice of Pie Cookbooks & Entertaining: Ruby Red Thanksgiving!: When you've lost three of the people who were always seated at your Thanksgiving Dinner table, it gets harder to enjoy the holiday. W...

Slice of Pie Tablescapes Series #2

Here's a look at my unique Thanksgiving tablescape that showcased foods that had come from local farmers' markets!  Some were fresh, but most of the fruits and vegetables had been preserved during the summer months.  Enjoy this second post in my Tablescapes Series for the 2020 holidays!



Slice of Pie Cookbooks & Entertaining: Farmers' Market Thanksgiving 2019: Farmers' Market Thanksgiving 2019 Every family meal I prepare begins with a theme.  Thanksgiving is no exception, and you can lo...

Pineapple and Cheese


Today I’m sharing a recipe that you’ve probably never seen.  That is, unless you have had it at my house or at the home of someone close to my mother’s circle of friends from the 1950s!  I have seen this recipe in one local women’s group cookbook, included by a friend of mine.  I have never seen it in any other place … and don’t know where it might have originated!  If you know, please share with me because I’ve been curious my whole life!

Pineapple and Cheese is a salad that my dad loved.  When I introduced it to my husband, he loved it.  My siblings love it, and our kids love it!  When I mention it to other people, they immediately think of a cheese and pineapple baked casserole.  That isn't our specialty!  Our's is a cold salad with big chunks of juicy pineapple and cheddar cheese.

I’ve written about the history of pineapple this year and you can find that post right here.  I’m going to share some holiday meal memories from my childhood home during my favorite vintage period of the 1950s and 60s!

Thanksgiving always included a big dinner for a big family!  Turkey and the best dressing ever!  Mother always stuffed the bird, but she also baked a big pan of dressing.  She topped that dressing in the pan with the turkey’s neck!  I used to do that too, but you don’t  get much of a turkey neck anymore!  The giblets always went in Mother’s gravy, but not before she simmered them to make delicious broth!  I remember distinctly the pan she used for that.  Of course, I do that, too!  Unlike Mama, I add a yellow onion with its skin, a carrot and a stalk of celery to my giblets simmering.

Mama made sweet potatoes one way … for any meal when she served them!  She would boil the sweet potatoes in advance, cool them and peel them.  Sometimes that preparation was done the night before Thanksgiving.  Candied sweet potatoes were simple.  She melted butter in a big cast iron skillet and added big chunks of the sweet potatoes.  Then she added brown sugar to caramelize them.  A little salt and they were perfect!

The Thanksgiving table included celery stuffed with Kraft Neufchatel Cheese with Pineapple.   She bought those expensive little glasses of cheese three times a year … Easter, Thanksgiving


and Christmas!  Green olives stuffed with pimento and tiny, sweet gherkins filled a cute little divided relish dish!  Of course, like most midwestern homes, mashed potatoes were on the Thanksgiving table.  I truly do not remember the vegetables that my mother served when I was a child.  I probably didn’t eat them!  I distinctly remember Mother’s homemade cranberry sauce, though.  She called it cranberry relish, but it was actually a gelatin salad.  We ground the fresh cranberries and they were not cooked.  We ground oranges and nuts and celery!  When I say ‘we ground’ … I mean we ground them in an old meat grinder that you fastened to a table or counter edge.  We didn’t have a place to fasten the grinder in the kitchen, so we fastened it to a basement step and that is where the grinding took place!  All of the ground up goodness was set in a lemon gelatin, but you could never detect the gelatin.  I still make that occasionally, but my daughter and I love canned cranberry sauce … jellied without the berries!  With all the cooking from scratch that we both do;  it is almost embarrassing to admit that!

The star on my mother’s holiday tables was never the turkey or the ham.  It was also a little pressed glass dish of Pineapple and Cheese!  Here’s the recipe!




Mama's Pineapple and Cheese


1 can of pineapple chunks 
8 ounces of cheddar cheese, cut in chunks 
1 egg 
¼ cup of sugar 
1 Tablespoon of corn starch

Drain all the juice from the can of pineapple and use it to make the sauce.  In a small pan, add the sugar and corn starch to the pineapple juice and whisk it over low heat until it thickens.  Set the pan aside and let everything cool slightly.  In a bowl, whisk the egg and temper it by whisking in some of the warm sauce.  Add the tempered egg to the sauce and whisk it until well blended.  Combine the pineapple chunks and the cheese and pour the sauce over it.  Stir it gently and refrigerate until ready to serve.

If you are afraid of the egg, since it is only coddled and not cooked, you can eliminate it.   The sauce won’t be as rich without it, though.

 



This post is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project.  I’m also sharing it with a couple blog parties, so take a look at the list on my sidebar.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Slice of Pie Tablescapes Series #1

Beginning  today, and hopefully each day during December, I'll be repurposing some old posts about tablescapes that have made my friends and family very happy!  I won't be sharing lots of words ... but pretty pictures instead!  This first post of my 2020 Slice of Pie Tablescapes Series is a sunroom table set for four three different ways.  First for a family lunch; then for a Halloween supper and then for a Thanksgiving luncheon!  The same table ... 3 different groups of people ... 3 different ways!  Enjoy.














Parsnips & Pears!

Parsnips are nearly as old as time!  They were no more popular during my favorite vintage period of the 1950s and 60s as in all other times!  I introduced myself to parsnips twenty years ago when I made a recipe for Winter White Soup, a creamed soup using only white root vegetables.  To my knowledge, I’d never had  a parsnip prior to that!

Parsnips should not be confused with white carrots.  Although a part of the carrot and parsley family, their flavor is slightly different.  They are sweet like carrots but have a bite of an earthy tone that makes me think of nuts.  Parsnips are often hidden in recipes!  They are used in soups, sometimes mashed as a thickening agent.  They are cubed and sliced and dropped in vegetable soups.  They are cooked whole in the preparation of stocks and sauces, sometimes removed and sometimes left in and pureed for thickening. Medium sized parsnips are the best.  The ones left in the ground through the winter are the sweetest.  There is so much flavor on the outside peel … don’t peel them!  Use a vegetable brush to clean them.

Native to the Eurasian continent, parsnips really have been around forever.  Writings of the Greeks and Romans note that it was difficult to differentiate between parsnips and carrots.  Carrots were white and purple during those times.  Both vegetables were cultivated by the Romans.  Roman Emperor Tiberius like parsnips so much that he accepted a tribute to Rome from Germany … mostly made of of parsnips!  Prior to the use of beets to process sugar, parsnips were used for that purpose.

The plants found their way to North America when French colonists took them to Canada, and British colonists took them to the Thirteen Colonies.  Parsnips were used as a starchy vegetable and not until the middle 1800s were they replaced by potatoes!

By the late 1800s, parsnips had regained popularity in England and in America.  England’s Royal Agricultural College cross cultivated some plants with wild stock and created an improved vegetable that was sweeter and easier to grow.


How were parsnips prepared in those times?  They were sliced or cubed, boiled and smothered with cream sauce.  They were sliced and fried just like we fry potatoes.  They were sliced, battered and fried.  They were cooked, smashed and formed into fritters or croquettes.  Often the croquettes were made even better by the addition of chopped walnuts.  They were stewed, mashed like potatoes and often with potatoes.  They were browned in butter or bacon grease.  THEY WERE MADE INTO PIES!  Yes!  I have a 1954 recipe for Sweet Parsnip Pie Parsnips can be cooked and pureed like pumpkin, flavored with a little lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg … and the pie is delicious!  Use your favorite pumpkin pie recipe, adding a teaspoon of lemon zest and replacing the pumpkin with pureed parsnip.  The flavor is amazing!

Today I’m sharing a recipe that is brand new to me!  We recently visited my son-in-law’s uncle’s farm and he invited us to take all the pears we could carry from this beautiful pear tree.  Many of the pears had fallen to the ground and the kids enjoyed shaking the branches so more fell!  We left with bags of pears and I couldn’t wait to find an unusual recipe for them.  Of course, just eating them fresh might be the best way to enjoy them!

As I was thumbing through my vintage cookbooks, a neat recipe jumped right out!  This puree of pears and parsnips is delicious.  I adjusted the recipe to make me happy, and I encourage you to try it.  Think “mash up” instead of “baby food puree”!   Think chunky applesauce!

 


 

Parsnip and Pear Mash

 

4 ripe pears

4 medium sized parsnips

¼ cup honey

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Peel and slice the pears.  If you have over-ripe spots, use that too.  Scrub and slice the parsnips.  Cook the pears and parsnips and the sprigs of thyme with a cup of water in a crock pot.  Cook them on low for 6 – 8 hours.   Drain off the juice, but keep it for another purpose, and put the pears and parsnips in a food processor.  Blend to the consistency that you prefer.  If you like chunky applesauce, leave some chunks in this too! 

This can be frozen.  Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.  Serve it warm, room temperature or cold.   I plan to serve it at Christmastime!

 


This is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable Project!  Click the menu to find similar posts.  I’ll be sharing with a couple blog parties, so click through the list on my sidebar!  Enjoy!

Rosemary Lemon Chicken

Today I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes that is perfect for a day when you don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen!  I’ve recently finished the harvest of most of the herb plants that I have grown in little pots outside each season, because we had our first freezing temperature the other night.  Friends often ask me how I store herbs.  I don’t go through the process of drying them or hanging them.  I just throw them in bags and freeze them.  I love them fresh in the summer and I love them right out of the freezer, too.

My mother never cooked with herbs.  She kept dried parsley in a little tin and always had garlic powder and other seasonings, but not fresh herbs.  It wasn’t a part of her 1960s kitchen.  Daddy grew everything he enjoyed eating, so I guess herbs weren’t important to him either!

Rosemary is native to the dry Mediterranean.  I first saw giant rosemary plants in my sister’s California neighborhood and could believe how big the plants grew in that climate.  Of course, here in humid Southern Illinois, we have to work at making the plants grow to that size.  Some folks do, but I’m never successful at that!

The early history of the herb is interesting.  Garlands of the herb were worn by early Greeks and Romans to improve their memory.  Charlemagne grew the herb in his royal gardens.  Napoleon used a cologne that was steeped with rosemary.   Rosemary is a symbol of loyalty, love and happiness.  There is a legend that says that the rosemary flower was originally white.  It changed to blue with the Virgin Mary draped her shawl on the plant when resting during the Flight to Egypt.

The other ingredients in this recipe that were not a part of my mother’s kitchen during my favorite vintage period … the 1950s and 60s … are lemons.  Lemons, citrus in general, were expensive.  When a bag of lemons came to our house, it ended up in fresh squeezed lemonade.  That is a topic for another post!  Mother made a wonderful lemon meringue pie, but she used the box mix for the filling!  I don’t like those made any other way!

According to foodtimeline.org, lemons originated in northern India.  Lemons didn’t grow in the Mediterranean until the end of the first century. The Romans discovered a direct sea route from the Red Sea to India.  The Arabs get the credit for spreading the lemon through the Mediterranean region and to China through the trade routes.  Columbus carried lemons to the New World.

A few hundred years later in the United States, in a journal article written by Dr. Frank McCoy in 1928, other uses for lemons are detailed.  According to McCoy, women were especially concerned about their beauty during this time!  They used lemon juice on their hands after washing dishes.  The used lemon juice on their hair after washing it.  People were encouraged to carry bottles of lemon juice when traveling to areas where fresh citrus might not be available.  We had already learned how important lemons were from a health standpoint. 


Rosemary Lemon Chicken

The recipe I’m sharing today is so good.  You’ll be out of the kitchen within 30 minutes, and then you’ll just enjoy the aromas coming from the kitchen!  It is a crockpot recipe!

I used bone in chicken pieces (with skin) that I'd already cut up and frozen ... and thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Dredge the chicken in a light coating of flour and pan fry it in a little olive oil ... turning it one time ... and frying it just long enough to put some  color on the skin. Place each piece in the crock pot and try to make a single layer. I drizzled a couple Tablespoons of the pan juices/oil over the meat, ground a generous amount of white pepper over the meat, then topped each piece of chicken with a slice of lemon and tossed in several sprigs of Rosemary. Add a cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the pot ... cover the crockpot and turn it on high. This usually takes about 3 hours, depending upon the size of the pieces.  I used a whole chicken this time, but I frequently make this with all breasts or all thighs. 

The sauce remaining in the crock pot is perfect to serve over rice, noodles or even mashed potatoes. It also makes a really good base for lemon chicken soup, so mine went right to the freezer for a snowy day that I know is in my future!

The other thing that I love about this chicken is that it makes really good chicken salad for sandwiches.  The kick of lemon makes it exceptional!  Use your favorite recipe!


This is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project.  I’ll also be sharing with a couple blog parties, so check out my sidebar list.  Enjoy!

Coffee & Biscotti


I was sitting outside a favorite coffee shop the other morning,  I was doing a little bit of networking for my job, but after I talked to the few people that were there … six feet a part … I took time to enjoy my coffee and scone … and  to ponder a bit.

Oh, how the world of coffee has changed in my lifetime!  When I was a little child, our next door neighbor named Frankie drank coffee all day long!  My mom used to ask her how she could drink coffee on a summer afternoon.  I can answer that question now.  I love coffee and my husband loved coffee.

In 1977, we lived in a beautiful double A-Frame home in the middle of 40 acres of standing oak.  Drinking coffee, sitting on one of the decks, was about as enjoyable as any part of our lifestyle!  It was also in 1977, when coffee prices skyrocketed.  It was so expensive that old-timers were talking about grinding hickory nuts and adding to the coffee to make it go farther.  I guess that couldn’t be much different than adding chicory root to coffee.  I would have liked it because I love coffee and chicory!

Coffee drinking became popular in America right after the Boston Tea Party, for obvious reasons!  During the Civil War, plenty of coffee rations were provided to soldiers on both sides.  During World War II, instant coffee was provided to soldiers.  My daddy used to tell a story of how he carried a little coffee pot and  a small kerosene stove when he was on Okinawa.  He also had a frying pan. He would tell us that when he could find coffee to brew, he felt closer to home.  For the rest of his life, my dad drank coffee out of mugs he brought back for wartime.  If you want to read more about that, click right here.

In my favorite vintage period, the 1950s, coffee was commonplace in most households.  Maxwell House and Folgers brands were the most popular.  Holiday parties often included “coffees” complete with all kinds of sweet treats and good coffee. Silver coffee urns and glass carafes were popular.   Coffee houses emerged in London in the 1950s and set a trend that found its way to New York City. Seattle became the hottest spot for coffee shops in the 1970s.  In the 1990s, coffee shops started popping up in cities all over the United States.  I’ll never forget a trip I made to Seattle when that was happening.  I couldn’t believe how exciting it was for me, a coffee lover, to zip from shop to shop sampling different varieties and strengths of coffee.  We had always dressed up coffee!  We loved Mexican Coffee flavored with cinnamon and Kahlua and Joe’s Christmas Coffee spiked with bourbon and stirred with a peppermint stick … both topped with whipped cream! I returned home from that Seattle trip, bought an espresso maker, and thus began the world of International coffees in the Moore home!  My husband subscribed to a world coffee club, and we enjoyed a new flavor each month, until we found our favorites.  My husband died before k-cup makers hit the market, but I’m sure he has one in Heaven, and I’m sure my dad is with him enjoying every cup!     

I’m going to share my recipe for biscotti today.  It is one of my favorite things to dunk in good coffee.  We think of modern coffee shops when we think of biscotti, but it dates to early Roman times.  The twice baked cookie, dried to a crunchy state, was initially used because of long storage.  It was dipped in wine in those earliest times.  Other European cultures have similar cookies. British have rusks; the French have Croquets de Carcassonne; and Germans have Zwieback (which many moms use when their babies are teething).

 


Biscotti


2 ½ cups flour 
1 cup sugar 
3 teaspoons baking powder 
½ teaspoon salt 
¼ cup milk 
½ cup canola oil 
1 teaspoon anise extract 
1 teaspoon almond extract 
3 eggs 
¼ cup finely ground nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift all the dry ingredients together.  Add the eggs and liquid ingredients to a big mixing bowl and beat until frothy.  Slowly blend in the dry ingredients.  If you have bread making attachments for your mixer, use them.  As the dough begins to stick together, drop in the nuts.  They need to be finely ground … but any nuts will work.

When the dough has formed a nice ball, separate it in half.  Form each half into a loaf and place it on a well-greased baking sheet.  Parchment paper or a silicone sheet works better, but if you don’t have that, use a little extra spray on the sheet.



Bake for 20 – 25 minutes in the preheated oven.  Stick a pick in the middle and make sure it comes out clean.   Remove from the oven and let the loaves cool for 10 minutes.  Remove them from the baking sheet to a cutting board and cut the biscotti into ½ or ¾ inch slices.   If you want a longer biscotti, cut them at an angle across the loaf.

Place the slices back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Turn each one over and bake another 10 minutes.  Let them cool on the baking sheet.

** There are a few ways to adjust this recipe.  You can use different extracts and flavorings or add lemon or orange zest.  Dip them in melted chocolate or drizzle them with a frosting of your choice.  Sprinkle chopped nuts or tiny chocolate morsels.  My favorite will always be anise extract and dipped in chocolate!

 



I’m posting this as a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project.  Click the menu tab for other old recipes and stories!  I’ll also share with a couple blog parties so take a look at my list on the sidebar.  Enjoy!

Braunschweiger Spread


I grew up eating Braunschweiger sandwiches on white bread smothered with mayonnaise.
  My mother and I were the only ones I remember eating it, but even as a kid, I loved it.  I married a man who loved it and we raised a daughter who loves it. I was recently delighted to learn that my 13-year old grand daughter loves it.   Wow!

When you eat in a German restaurant, you’ll probably find a Braunschweiger spread on the menu.  They might call it ‘mousse’ or ‘pate’, but it is probably exactly what I’m going to tell you how to make today!

Braunschweiger is a pork liver sausage that is smoked.  It comes from the city of Braunschweig, also known as Brunswick.  Today, this city is a cultural center filled with medieval buildings, museums, cathedrals … and modern buildings created for scientific research and development.

From 1269 through 1814, the Duchy of Brunswick was part of a trade route frequented by many travelers.  Their sausages were very popular, and among them was that liver sausage that carries the name of the city.

When you ask people how they eat their Braunschweiger sandwiches … if they eat them at all … you’ll get lots of replies!  Some love it spread on rye bread and covered with mustard and onions.  Others pile on onions but drizzle on catsup!  Others add lots of dill pickle.   White bread, whole wheat bread and rye bread … all varieties work!

This appetizer spread is a big hit when I make it for parties.  There is never a morsel of it left over!  It truly is a vintage recipe made popular in the 1960s.

 


Braunschweiger Spread

12 ounces Braunschweiger
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon horseradish mustard
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
A dash of Worcestershire Sauce


In the old days, I used an electric mixer to combine all these ingredients.  Today, I put it in a food processor, and it is finished in a minute!  Maybe 3 minutes!

I’ve served this many different ways.  I usually just put it in a crock and surround it with crackers and dill pickles.  You can form it into a log or a ball and roll it in salted nuts like chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts.  You can also smear the very top with a little mayonnaise and sprinkle on chopped olives, red onions or pimento.  Just enjoy it!

 


This column is part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project.  I’ll be sharing it with a couple blog parties, so click through the list on my sidebar. 

Sultan's Minute Steaks

My family loves minute steaks, also called cube steaks.  I cook them a variety of ways ranging from ‘chicken frying’ with milk gravy to simply seasoning them and throwing them on the BBQ grill for a few minutes.  Cooking them for a few minutes is the key, no matter how you prepare them.  In fact, if you cook them too long, they will become too tough to eat.  Sometimes I prepare them in the crock pot, but even that is a recipe that doesn’t take as long as a typical beef recipe.  You don’t have to simmer or slow cook cubed steak.

My husband and I grew up eating minute steaks, both pork and beef.  Today’s recipe uses beef, and the story that goes along with it might be more important than the recipe.  Let’s look at the history of these tender steaks first.




People have tenderized meat by pounding it and making tiny crisscross cuts in it for centuries.  The process of cubing meat simply means cutting little cube shapes in the meat.  The first patent for a cubing machine dates to 1926.  Just look at this machine. It is called the Wonder Chef Cube Steak Machine.  You put the meat on the round turn table and each time your turn the crank, it cuts the meat with 19 blades.  Then you lift the crank, turn the meat and crank it again.  I think I’ll just buy mine at the supermarket!

A 1936 advertisement for the machine itself offers a recipe book to show home cooks how to prepare the meat.  In the 1950s, my favorite vintage period, the Los Angeles Times featured recipes for the little tender steaks.  In the 1960s and 70s, the steaks were still a popular buy, but consumers were warned to make sure they were getting a decent cut of meat to start with. Watch out for extra fat or gristle.

Cubed steaks are typically much cheaper than steak.  When economic times turn downward, cube steak sales go up!  In 2008, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the amount of cute steak sold in thee last quarter went up 10% compared to the previous year.  The amount of beef sold, overall, during that period only went up 3%.  It was a sign of the times, and I’d bet that when 2020 beef sales are reviewed, we might see the same thing.

What you are about to read now in this post is actually a blog post from a few years ago.  Enjoy!

 


Not many people name menu items after their dogs! We do! When I married my husband, I also married his dog. Sultan was a beautiful long hair German Shepherd that had been with him several years when I came along, and he stayed with us for several more. He ate canned dog food that looked just like beef stew complete with the peas and carrots and potatoes. Sultan wouldn't eat the peas and he actual mastered spitting them out the side of his mouth while he chewed the other ingredients! He was a dandy! So, for 30 years after he had passed on ... anything that even resembled Sultan's expensive dog food ... was named after Sultan! Sometimes my husband would even leave a few peas in his plate for a chuckle.



This picture is not our Sultan, but he could be his child! He was big, furry and warm. He was middle aged when he learned to play Barbies without eating their heads or nibbling on their feet. He gladly wore earrings and beaded necklaces from our grandma collection. It was not uncommon for my husband to come home from work and find his prized pet in a man's shirt or a little girl's dress. Children loved him and he loved them back!
I'm happy to share the recipe for this quick meal. With meat prices the way they are, we are all looking for ways to prepare the less expensive cuts of meat, especially beef. We grew up on minute steaks and raised our daughter on minute steaks! They are delicious and take on whatever flavor you add to them. They can be pan-fried, roasted or grilled. We love them smothered in brown gravy. That is real comfort food! But we also love them on the grill.

 



Sultan's Minute Steaks 


4 - 6 four ounce minute steaks 
Canola oil for frying 
flour for dredging and gravy thickening 
salt and pepper 
Beef flavor base for gravy 
1 1/2 cups frozen peas 
4 carrots, sliced

 While the oil heats in a big heavy skillet, dredge the minute steaks in the flour and place them in the skillet. Brown them on both sides and remove them from the skillet. Make sure you have about 3 Tablespoons of oil left in the skillet; turn the temperature to low; add 3 Tablespoons of flour and 1 Tablespoon of brown gravy base to the oil and stir quickly to make a roux. Add 3 cups of water to the skillet and whisk for a smooth gravy. 

Put the minute steaks back into the gravy; add the peas and carrots; put a lid on the skillet and place it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 Degrees. You'll be able to cut the steaks with a fork. Serve with noodles, rice or mashed potatoes!

 


 

This is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project.  If you’d like to see similar articles, just click the menu tab.  I’ll also be sharing with a couple blog parties so make sure you visit my list on my sidebar.

Sweet Potatoes!


The history of sweet potatoes is so interesting and diverse, I could write a whole book about them.  Oh, wait!  I did write a whole book about sweet potatoes … a cook book.   In fact, I created an entire local food project called “Good Food Local” based upon a doctoral dissertation about sweet potatoes and the fact that they would be a very good crop to grow in Southern Illinois, if only people knew how to cook them.  Long story – short:  Good Food Local resulted in lots of grant money allowing the promotion of locally grown produce and teaching over a thousand students how to prepare that produce.

Sweet potatoes began their journey around the world in Central and South America.   It found its way to Polynesia and archaeologic records date the sweet potato in the Cook Islands as early as 1210 CE.   Vines visited Easter Island, Hawaii and New Zealand … all during times before Europeans visited the Americas.

In the 1500s, the sweet potato was introduced to the Philippines and China; in the early 1600s, to Japan; and by 1764, they were growing in Korea.

Historians believe that sweet potatoes reached Europe during the Columbian exchange, a time right after Columbus’ first voyage when explorers took foods back and forth.  The 1604 Receipt Book written by Elinor Fettiplace lists sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes have been a part of the cuisine of the United States since forever!  African slaves knew exactly what to do with them and their recipes and culture continue to rank at the top of the list of what we foodies call Soul Food.  Sweet Potato Pie has been popular since the middle 1800s.   It is easy to assume that the marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole dates to my favorite vintage period of the 1950s, but it actually became popular in 1920 … when marshmallows were first manufactured and marketed. 

Lots of 1950s and 60s families enjoyed sweet potatoes in the same ways they enjoyed white potatoes.  They boiled and mashed them; they roasted them alongside meats; they sliced and fried them.  If you surveyed a thousand people and asked them in the marshmallow topped sweet casserole was on their 1960 Thanksgiving table, 999 would say that it was!

In my childhood home, sweet potatoes came to the table in one way.  Mother boiled sweet potatoes then removed their jackets and cut them into chunks.  Those chunks were fried in butter and at the last minute they were sprinkled with brown sugar so they got a crisp caramelized edge!  That remains this family’s  favorite!  Homemade sweet potato pie would rank #2!

However, I love sweet potatoes prepared in a variety of savory ways and those are the recipes I will share today.  The easiest is to simply bake the potato, split it open and serve it with butter, salt and pepper!


One of my favorite adulthood travel memories is from a trip my husband and I took to Louisiana. He kept making me go back to a road-side vegetable stand because he enjoyed talking to the man who staffed the stand! He was Cajun and Joe loved visiting with him. As a result, we came home with a trunk filled with bags of sweet potatoes. Not a problem ... we loved them and had a dry sun porch to store them in.  My husband loved sweet potatoes two ways ... baked and loaded with butter and salt; candied the caramelized way in a cast iron skillet on top of the stove with butter and a little bit of brown sugar. I finally managed to get him to eat sweet potato fries, but not too often.



Sweet Potato Alfredo Sauce

This pasta sauce is too easy to make! Bake a medium to large sweet potato in the microwave. Saute 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion in 1/2 stick of butter. When the onion is soft, add a little minced garlic and a good sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Remove the flesh from the sweet potato and add it to the skillet, mashing everything together. Add 3-4  cups of half and half and 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese. Let this combination come to a simmer. It will begin to thicken. You can remove it from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. (I actually like texture, so I just use a whisk.) If the sauce is too thick, add some of your pasta cooking water until you get the consistency you like.

This makes plenty of sauce for a pound of cooked pasta.

 


 Sweet Potato Soup with Turnip Greens

2 quarts ham stock
Smoked pork neck bones or ham hocks
1 small sweet onion
1 rib celery
3 sweet potatoes
1 Tablespoon dried sweet red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon red chili pepper paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon powdered sage
4 – 6 cups torn turnip greens

In a large soup pot, prepare the stock by boiling 2 smoked ham hocks or several smoked pork neck bones in 3 quarts of water. Gently boil the stock until it reduces by about one third. Peel and chop the onion, celery and sweet potatoes and add them to the stock. Season with the dried peppers, pepper paste, garlic, parsley and sage. Cover the pot, and gently simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender. When the soup is done, turn off the burner, add the greens and put the lid back on the pot. Within five minutes, the greens will be the perfect consistency. Season the soup with salt and hot sauce, if desired. (Any type of greens are perfect in this soup. I always remove the stems from greens and chop them according to the thickness of the leaves. If they are thick, chop or tear them in smaller pieces.)



 Venison and Sweet Potato Hash

Use a pound of ground venison, beef or pork, 2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into sticks, 4 green onions with their tops ...  and 4 mini red and yellow peppers sliced.

Saute all these ingredients together and when the meat and vegetables are done, add the following spices:

 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Add a cup of beef broth and simmer gently for another five minutes, then stir in a Tablespoon of chopped cilantro before serving.  If you like lots of spice, add enough to satisfy!



Sweet Potato Balls

3 large sweet potatoes, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 large marshmallows
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Remove the skins from the sweet potatoes and place the flesh in a mixing bowl. Mash them together with the brown sugar and salt.

Divide the mixture into 12 portions. Use each portion to gently form a ball of sweet potato around each marshmallow making sure there are no breaks in the ball that would allow the marshmallow to escape while baking.

Combine the nuts and coconut in a small mixing bowl.

Roll each ball in coconut mixture and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the coconut is toasted.




This is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project.  If you'd like to see similar posts, just click the menu button.  I'm also sharing with a couple blog parties, so make sure you check out the list on my sidebar!  Enjoy.







HENS circa 1950


Cornish Game Hens are an important food from my favorite vintage period, the 1950s and 60s, because they didn’t exist until 1950.   The Rock Cornish Game Hen was originally bred by Therese Makowsky in Connecticut in 1950.  She cross-bred the Cornish chicken (which came from Cornwall, England) with the White Plymouth Rock chicken.  That result was a short legged, fat breasted little bird that weighed about two pounds!  In the 1980s, Tyson began raising them and now, two-thirds sold in the U.S. come from Tyson.


During my early childhood, we raised chickens in our back yard … for both eggs and meat.  This was not uncommon in small rural towns of the 1950s.  It is kind of funny that the cycle has brought us back to that!  Several of my neighbors have beautiful chicken coops!

When I was a child, we had a dog named Ringer.  Mother would tell him to “get one” and he would bring her a chicken.  She’d go through the process, which I won’t describe, of preparing that chicken for the frying pan!   Of course, we enjoyed lots of fresh eggs on a regular basis.

Chicken was always a favorite on our supper table, but the year Mother introduced Daddy to Cornish Game Hens, there were sparks!  Mother had helped prepare an evening meal for lots of community leaders and Cornish Game Hen was the menu.  Daddy was not happy that she had worked all day and well into the evening to help with that special event.  He was unhappy … until she brought home a little fat hen for him to snack on!  He was in love.  All wasforgiven!  He said that was the best little chicken he had ever eaten.  From then on, Cornish Game Hens became a frequent Sunday Dinner!  I carried that tradition into my own home in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the Aldi store made its debut in my little town in the 1980s that we had easy access to the little birds.  Our supermarkets didn’t carry them except during holiday times.   Once they were easy to find at Aldi, they became favorite dinner party fare, too.  Our friends loved them, and it was so easy to cut them in half for a reasonable serving size!  The presentation is beautiful, served whole or halved!


My vintage cookbooks don’t include many recipes for Cornish Game Hens.  The one I love most, however, calls for stuffing the little birds with oyster stuffing and roasting them smothered in butter, salt and pepper.  My second favorite, I’ll share with you today.  Lemon Roasted Cornish Game Hen.

It is important to point out that these little birds really absorb flavor.  The use of lots of fresh herbs, fruits including citrus and stone fruits,  apples and pears … certainly adds to the flavor.  Spices representing the cuisine of other cultures is a perfect way to prepare them.  Use your imagination and know that your finished product will be delicious!

There are two ways to roast these birds.  If you are stuffing them, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and cover the roasting pan with a lid or foil.  Roast for 45 minutes, then uncover the pan and continue to roast about 10 minutes, so the skin gets crispy.  It is important to start with a covered pan, so the stuffing gets done.

If you are not stuffing the birds, roast them uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes.  The length of time depends upon the weight of the birds.  Use your thermometer and when they reach 170 degrees, they are done.

Always let birds stand for ten minutes before carving.

When I write that we love Cornish Game Hens, you’ll see that in what I share today … more than a couple recipes!

Butter Roasted Cornish Hens

This is my Sunday Dinner style!  A simple roasted hen served with mashed potatoes and a favorite vegetable.  I simply stuff the bird with a piece of onion and celery, rub it with butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.  When I have fresh sage, a sprig goes inside it, too.  Roast the birds uncovered at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes.  Use your meat thermometer to make sure it is done!

You’ll notice that the green beans in this picture are also roasted.  As long as the oven is on, add a sheet pan of vegetables.  I tossed these in lemon infused olive oil and added pepper.  Delicious.



Spanish Style Cornish Hens

 This hen was prepared for a special dinner commemorating the movie Mary Queen of Scots.  I flavored the bird with herbs of Spain.   I made a rub of turmeric, saffron, garlic, oregano and cumin.   I rubbed the birds with the spices and let them sit in the fridge overnight.  Those flavors were so obvious in each bite!  I stuffed each bird with pieces of naval oranges, including the peel.  I roasted the hens uncovered.  Delicious!


Citrus Cornish Game Hens

I just prepared this bird not long ago and used it to serve two people!  The citrus flavor is remarkable mixed with fresh herbs .. thyme, pineapple sage and Mexican tarragon (which has a bit of a licorice flavor).   I rubbed the bird with lemon infused olive oil and stuffed it with half a lemon and half a lime.  I also placed fresh herbs in the cavity.  I roasted uncovered at 350 degrees.   The dressing I served with this bird was a combination of wild rice and cornbread.  Make your favorite and be creative!   Had I stuffed the bird with the rice/cornbread … I would have started my baking by covering the roasting pan with foil, as I’ve described previously in this post.

  


 Cornish Hens with Plums and Grape Leaves

This is probably my favorite way to prepare a roasted game hen … with fruit.  I posted this previously and this is what I wrote!

The plums and grapes have been harvested, but the cool evenings this time of year often produce some new tender grape leaves and I love to use them in cooking.  The earthy grassy flavor is a nice addition to roasted poultry and pork. A couple of overripe plums in the crisper prompted me to create!  I stuffed my game hen with chopped plums, rosemary and chopped grape leaves.  I placed a few sections of plum around the bird and tucked in some sprigs of rosemary and sprinkled on a little salt and pepper. I always roast my game hens at 350 degrees and the larger ones take a little over an hour to get fall off the bone done. That's the way we like them! No, I didn't use any other spices because I wanted the grape leaf and rosemary flavors to be dominant. 

 

You can use any stone fruit to prepare this recipe.  It is so good with peaches, but when I use peaches, I also prefer to grill my bird on the BBQ grill.  I add chopped peaches to the sauce I use and then finish the dish with peach halves that have also been grilled.

You can marinate these little birds and expect bold flavors.  You can dry rub them and expect bold flavors.  You can simply sprinkle with salt and pepper and still expect a bold flavor .. of scrumptious!


This is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project.  I'll be sharing it with a couple blog parties, too ... so make sure you click through the list on my sidebar.   Enjoy!




Mary Queen of Scots Dinner Menu Booklet

Grandma Debbie's Christmas 2018

Grandma's Blue & Green Pupkins!

Autumn at Grandma Debbie's