Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vintage Cookbook: Betty Crocker's Dinner in a Dish - Wait, people ate what?

I was attempting to hold off discussing this glorious gem of a cookbook until I actually had the opportunity to make one of the dishes, but now I'm toying with the idea of a retro potluck dinner party when the next season of Mad Men starts up instead...

Betty Crocker is more myth than actual happy lady in the kitchen.  Interestingly enough, her image has changed over the years.  Initially she had an older appearance, almost like a grandmother.  Since the 1960's she's taken on a more modern "Mom" like image.  (Google "Betty Crocker through the years" and you'll see what I mean)!  I was devastated to discover recently that my own Betty Crocker cookbook (well, actually my Mom's cookbook from the late 1970's that I grew up using and experimenting with in the kitchen) ended up in a pile of books sold at a yard sale.  I've been stalking online auction sites ever since, only to find that it is now considered vintage and quite pricey.  I could kick myself for not stealing it from my Mom sooner!  It's the 1978 3-clip ring edition if anyone has a copy they'd like to donate...  ;)

In the meantime, I managed to find this great edition at a local antique store.  I'm fascinated by how just a few decades can really modify the tastes and preferences of a generation.  For instance, you don't see too many jello salads or GASP!!!! aspics (savory gelatin dishes) at too many parties anymore.  A friend's Thanksgiving family tradition includes serving an aspic every year that only her father eats.  I've tried it and it didn't taste quite as horrible as you'd imagine.  Kind of like a coleslaw gelatin salad, perhaps?

An aspic from Betty Crocker

My husband is always shocked by a gelatin salad I grew up eating on many special occasions, a Cherry Coke jello salad, which includes bing cherries, pineapple, cherry jello, cream cheese, and chopped pecans.  Although, this may be due to the fact that my husband is a Yankee and may just not be used to cooking with Coca-Cola.  Though my generation didn't really enjoy the full array of aspics, sweet gelatin dishes were very common when I was growing up, and now it seems like those may be on their way out, too.

Flavor combinations seem to have slowly changed as well.  Dried beef appears in may cookbooks from the 1950's and 1960's, but now seems dated and not too healthy in the sodium department.  And take, for instance, this "Summer Salad Pie".

It looks so lovely, doesn't it?  Here's the jist of it: Cheddar cheese pie crust, tomato/celery/green olive aspic filling, and tuna salad topping.  WTF???!!!  No, thank you.

Also interesting, is how easy it is to forget how far we've come from the "Get back in the kitchen, woman!" days.  And while I happen to be a woman who loves the kitchen and cooking for my man, my only place in life is certainly not there.  Check out this excerpt from the cookbook:

Now, I don't know about you ladies out there, but speaking for myself and regardless of my current pescatarian diet, I can eat the shit out of some spareribs!  The sexism in old cookbooks just makes me laugh now.  I've got an even funnier cookbook from this aspect I'll save for another time.

Here's the one that confuses me the most:

Upon first glance, it appears to be a precious little tea cake you might serve at brunch.  Not so, my friends.  

Party sandwich loaf?  Shrimp salad filling, cheese pecan filling, AND chicken bacon filling?  Wait, and a cream cheese frosting?  My mind is racing from the overload of flavors.  Stop the madness!!!  All kidding aside, the wonderful thing about Betty Crocker cookbooks is how simple the recipes are to follow.  And there really are some amazing recipes that can be incorporated in today's changing meals.  One recipe I'm really excited to try is this one:

I'll let you know how it turns out!

I connected with my grandmothers especially when it came to the kitchen and I miss them all the time.  When I find cookbooks such as these, I become nostalgic about their cooking.  I like to imagine them cooking some of these very recipes in their own kitchens when this was a brand new cookbook.  Hopefully some of their skills will rub off on me when I attempt to make some of these dishes, too!  

P.S.  I'd love to know if any of you have odd vintage dishes you grew up eating!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cocktails Anyone? Blood Orange Margaritas!

I apologize in advance as this blog is long overdue and now it may be too late to find blood oranges this season... But if you can't find blood oranges, grapefruits or your favorite oranges would be just as tasty!

Blood oranges are really delicious and sweeter than most oranges. The flesh is a dark red blood-like color hence, the name.  They can usually be found in the early part of Winter through early May.  We had a particularly harsh, cold Winter here in Georgia which meant a lot of curling-up-at-home-and-drinking nights for myself and the hubs.

We found an easy and delicious Food and Wine recipe (though, be warned, these are very strong and you may want to use a little less tequila and add more as needed).  I'm going to work on a strawberry version this summer and will post a recipe if it turns out as delicious as this one!

Blood Orange Margaritas

Fresh-squeezed juice of about 12 Blood Oranges (enough for 1 qt.)
Fresh-squeezed juice of about 12 limes (enough for 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups Cointreau or triple sec
3 1/2 cups Silver Tequila
Kosher salt
Mix juices with tequila and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  Salt the rims of glasses and serve over ice.
(We cut the recipe in half since it was just the two of us and it was still delicious!)

Party Nerd Edition - Baby Shower with Indian Flair

One of my best friends, Diana, is having a baby in July and I recently threw her a baby shower.  I'm seriously beside myself with excitement and have already declared myself an honorary aunt.  I wanted to make sure her shower was extra special since she's such a sweet friend.  Her husband is from Turkey, so initially I thought it would be fun to include some Turkish traditions.  When I told her that one of the main baby shower traditions is to fashion a onesie out of the father's underwear, she wasn't really interested...  Diana loves Indian food, so I decided to go with an Indian color scheme and feature a couple of Indian dishes instead!

I found some lovely pink sari fabric and paired it with an orange paper tablecloth.

Party City carries these lovely tissue paper puffs that you put together yourself.  They come in many colors, so I think I'll be using them for many future parties!

I made veg. samosas and chiken tikka masala with biryani rice, along with more traditional shower fare.

I used Maya Kaimal's Tikka Masala sauce, which is delicious!  All of her stuff is wonderful and can be found in the deli section at Whole Foods.

My favorite find was this precious elephant teapot from Cost Plus World Market.  It was perfect, so I bought two and can't wait to use them for having tea!