Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Oven Hash

Despite the fact that I grew up in Berkeley, to me the term “hash” still means a hearty meal, not something to put in a pipe. And happily, my Very Best Friend in the World, Miss Karen Finlay, not only agrees with me, but recently invited me to her adorable home to cook up some hash together. (see us LIVE in action here!) And not just any old hash, friends, we cooked up the Best Oven Hash from Karen’s 1963 copy of Better Homes & Gardens’ “So-Good Meals”. So, how was it, you ask? So-Good!

Not only is Karen my Very Best Friend in the World, but she is also totally Fabulous AND sells Tupperware. (click here to buy some now!) Also, we are Sin Twisters. That, for anyone who doesn’t know, is like Twin Sisters, but much more exciting. It means, in our case, that we were born at the same hospital in southern CA, (though we both grew up in different Bay Area towns), and somehow, all these years later, we’re still often confused for each-other…. Something I consider a high honor, indeed.

Anyhow, back to the hash. This is a dish that Karen has been making for years, and its always a hit. We swapped ground turkey for beef (in our efforts to “reduce”) and used frozen potatoes, just as our mid-century predecessors would have done. We also made use of some fine Tupperware products that you can purchase for your very own here!

Karen and I baked up the hash, threw together a salad, and enjoyed it all with a delicious cocktail made by videographer extraordinaire, Jon. Try this at home and we’re sure you’ll agree – this is the BEST oven hash EVER! (Note: photos are from a second batch that Ivy and I made at home, using Tupperware's predecessor, the Slap n Chop!)

Best Oven Hash

Better Homes & Gardens “So-Good Meals” 1963

1 ½ cups coarsely ground cooked beef (*we used turkey)

1 cup coarsely ground cooked potatoes (*we used frozen)

½ cup coarsely ground onion

¼ cup chopped parsley

1 tsp salt

Dash pepper

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 6-ounce can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk


1/3 cup slightly crushed corn flakes

1 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted

Lightly mix beef, potatoes, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and milk. Turn into greased 1-quart casserole. Mix corn flakes and butter, sprinkle over top. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 30 minutes or till heated through. Pass catsup and mustard. (note: Ewwwww!!! No catsup or mustard needed!) Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Surprise Ham Loaf

The holidays are here and with them, ham. Ham says Christmas like nothing else, so when I was invited to a Christmas pot luck (at the home of my dear friend and your local Tupperware Lady, Ms. Karen Finlay), I just had to prepare a ham. But while flipping through Betty Crocker’s 1960 Party Book, I came across the instruction to “Make your favorite ham loaf mixture”, and I nearly died. MY FAVORITE HAM LOAF MIXTURE? Wait, not only do I not have a favorite, I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing! And so, I HAD TO MAKE IT.

Or, I did and I didn’t. I couldn’t leave well enough alone, for in researching my “favorite” ham loaf (aka looking it up, since I had never before ever made one and did not have a “favorite” to turn to), I came upon a Ham Ring. Now I am just addicted to rings and other molded delights, so I decided to combine the two concepts, making the ham ring as directed, yet including the “element of surprise” as suggested by Betty.

The Ham Ring recipe I found comes from the somewhat terrifying Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook of Meats (including seafood and poultry) which is un-dated, but must hail from the mid-1960s. This massive tome offers no less than 2000 recipes, including many (many) variations on the same dish – for example, there are 32 different recipes for stew. The good sorority sisters most certainly had a ham loaf recipe, or 20. I picked one that sounded the least gross!

As far as ingredients go, I was not able to locate the “surprise”: pickled peaches or apricots. I went with regular canned peaches and hoped for the best. Also, I didn’t see ground cooked ham for sale, so I used my cuisinart to process a regular canned ham. Oh and by the way, did you know that canned ham contains the exact same ingredients as SPAM? I very nearly bought SPAM to use for this experiment, but I was overwhelmed by processed food and decided to save the SPAM for another time. (Like the next big earthquake.) Otherwise, all the ingredients were normal things I recognized and could find easily. I set out to create the masterpiece of Christmas, my Surprise Ham Ring. The results, sadly, were disastrous.

Was there not enough binding? Too many bread crumbs? Was the ring not greased well-enough? Was Venus in retrograde? Whatever the cause, the ring would not stay together as I “un-molded” it. I ended up having to scrape it out of the pan and dump it into a serving bowl with a few orange slices sadly draped on top and sprigs of parsley protruding. Surprise! The ring was not. I was so glum I didn’t even taste it. HOWEVER, I ended up with a large quantity of left-over ham, so a week later I braved the Ham Loaf yet again. This time I decided to make a loaf, using the same recipe, but not attempting the ring. I also used dried apricots this time since I was out of peaches, because I still wanted that darn surprise. And now I can truly say I have made a ham loaf. But… why? I genuinely like all the flavors, even the apricot “surprise”, but the texture is NOT RIGHT! My feelings on the entire concept of Ham Loaf are to question its very existence. Why grind something up and mix it with breadcrumbs, when it is easier and more satisfying to leave it in the original form and just dump some jam on top?

In the interest of public health and safety, I am bound to say: DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS! I am including the recipes here if you feel you must, but really, I don’t see the point. Instead, take it from some folks who know ham, the two handsome sons of cooking goddess Paula Deen! I’ll take Jamie and Bobby Deen’s ham any day! (OK fine, even if they didn’t have any ham at all I’d be OK with them, tee hee) Seriously, if you want ham, their recipe is for flavoring a spiral cut ham and takes much less time, less ingredients, and makes less mess. HELLO!?!?!

Enjoy, folks, and y’all have a Merry Christmas now, ya hear?

Surprise Ham Loaves, Betty Crocker’s Party Book 1960

Heat oven to 350 degrees (mod.). Drain pickled peaches or apricots. Make your favorite ham loaf mixture. Fill greased custard or muffin cups half full with ham mixture. Put one picked peach or apricot in center of each cup. Add more ham mixture to make cup ¾ full. Bake 45 to 60 min.

Caramel-Orange Ham Ring

The Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook: Meats (including seafood and poultry) undated, mid-1960s

2 eggs

½ tsp Tabasco sauce

1 tsp dry mustard

3 c. fresh bread crumbs

2 lb ground cooked ham

1 6-oz can frozen orange juice

½ c. water

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 tsp whole cloves

Beat eggs in large bowl; stir in Tabasco sauce and dry mustard. Add bread crumbs, ground ham, orange juice and water; mix well. Sprinkle brown sugar and whole cloves in bottom of 6-cup ring mold; add ham mixture, packing firmly into pan. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Turn out onto serving platter; garnish with parsley and thin orange slices. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Mrs. Mildred M. Reiberg, Pres. Xi Beta Gamma Clare, Mich.

The Deen Brothers’ Fig-and-Orange-Glazed Ham

Food Network Magazine, 2009

1 spiral-sliced half ham

1 cup fig jam

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Grated zest of 1 orange

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

1. Preheat the oven as directed on the ham package and follow the instructions for baking the ham. Remove the ham from the oven about 30 minutes before the end of the warming time.

2. Meanwhile, combine the jam, mustard, and orange zest and juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, just until the jam melts (do not boil). Spoon half of the glaze over the ham and bake for the remaining 30 minutes.

3. Remove the ham from the oven and spoon the remaining glaze on top. Transfer to a cutting board and carve.

Active: 15 min. Total: about 2 hours (12 min per pound) – Serves: 12

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Spiced Wine / Wassail

When it gets cold out, there is just nothing like a hot drink, and I don’t mean coffee! I was looking to make something Dickensian (preparing for the annual celebration of Christmas past that is San Francisco’s Dickens Fair) and thought of Wassail (traditionally more of a spiced cider, but modern recipes include wine or ale). I had a modern recipe for Cranberry Wassail, and doesn’t that sound festive? The problem was, the organic unsweetened cranberry juice I used made it so tart as to be nearly unbearable! Finally, with the addition or fresh squeezed orange juice, sparkling lemonade, agave syrup AND about 2 cups of brandy, it was quite tasty.

For a tried-and-true regular spiced wine, though, you can’t go wrong with this delight from a 1967 guide to “California Wine Cookery and Drinks” so kindly furnished by the Wine Advisory Board with an office on Market Street in San Francisco. (This board was extremely prolific with cook books and pamphlets throughout the 50s and 60s, but seems to have been supplanted by the more scientific California Winegrape Inspection Advisory Board – BoooooRing.)

I include both recipes here because there are enough cold winter nights for both – and I’m also sharing a more traditional Wassail recipe (courtesy of Betty Crocker’s 1960 “Party Book”) that does not contain alcohol, if you just want a hot drink without all the merriment. Though I could see adding rum to it… Cheers!

Cranberry Wassail

6 whole cloves

6 whole allspice

1 (48-oz) bottle cranberry juice cocktail

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ tsp nutmeg

1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine

Tie whole spices in 2 layers of cheesecloth or place in tea ball. In large saucepan, combine cranberry juice cocktail, brown sugar and nutmeg; mix well. Add spices. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occationally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add wine; cook until thoroughly heated. Remove spices.

12 (3/4 cup) servings (note: this was increased because of all the things I added to the concoction, but still made only about 8 slightly larger servings)

Holiday Spiced Wine

1 quart water

3 cups sugar

12 whole cloves

4 inches stick cinnamon

6 whole allspice

½ teaspoon powdered ginger

Rind of 1 orange

Rind of 1 lemon

2 cups orange juice

1 cup lemon juice

1 (4/5-qt) bottle California Burgundy or Claret

Combine water, sugar, spices, orange rind and lemon rind in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved; simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour. Strain. Add orange juice, lemon juice and wine, heat gently. DO NOT BOIL. Serve hot in mugs.

20 servings, 3 oz size (note: that makes about 8 servings of “my size”)

Wassail Bowl

Spiced Oranges: Stud 3 oranges with whole cloves (1/2” apart); place in baking pan with a little water, and bake in slow mod. Oven (325 degrees) for 30 min.


3 qt. apple cider

2 sticks cinnamon, 3’ long

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup honey

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 tsp. lemon rind

2 no. 2 cans pineapple juice (5 cups)

Heat cider and cinnamon sticks in large saucepan. Bring to boil; simmer covered 5 min. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered 5 min longer. Pour into punch bowl and float Spiced Oranges on top, using cinnamon sticks for stirring.

40 punch cup servings (Note: punch cups are TINY!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011


When the seasons change and it starts to get cold, I want baked goods! No more salads or iced tea, thank you. I have many favorite recipes, but since I’ve never (or hardly ever) met a baked good I didn’t like, I grabbed Mary Norwak’s 1966 “Home Baked Breads and Cakes” and found a delightful English gingerbread recipe to try. I often try recipes with whole wheat flour and try to make tasty baked goods that are remotely healthy, and this is made with oats – but it isn’t always the most important element. When it’s raining outside and you want something to sink your teeth in, it just has to taste good!

Ms. Norwak’s UK book is excellent because she gives three versions of each recipe: Imperial (UK), Metric (Europe) and American. Once upon a time I did acquire metric measuring cups, but I’m sticking to the US version that she was so kind to provide. I also used molasses, though UK bakers would call it treacle. Finally, I love the UK term for baking soda: bicarbonate of soda. In case you eat way too much of it, you can whip up a “bicarb” (water and baking soda – works as good as Tums).

I love this recipe for Parkin, an English gingerbread that is traditionally served on Nov 5th, Guy Fawkes Day (an annual UK celebration commemorating the fact that King James 1 was not assassinated in the 1600s) but if you want a more cake-like and refined gingerbread, try the second recipe listed, which is one my family has made since I was little. Either way you will have your fill of molasses and spice. A nice chunk of ether with a cup of coffee or hot tea on a cold day makes everything feel right in the world.

Parkin (English Gingerbread)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

3 cups rolled oats or 1 2/3 cups ground oatmeal

½ cup molasses or treacle

2/3 cup butter

½ cup soft brown sugar

2/3 cup milk

1 egg

Sift together the flour, salt, spices and soda. Add the oatmeal, and toss lightly to mix. Warm the treacle, butter, sugar and milk until the butter has melted. Cool slightly, add the egg and beat well. Pout into the centre of the dry ingredients and stir rapidly until smooth. Turn into a greased and lined 7-inch square tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour. This is the traditional cake to eat for Guy Fawkes celebrations, and should be stored in an airtight tin for a couple of weeks before using.


½ cup butter or shortening

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

2 ½ cups sifted flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp salt

¾ cup molasses

1 cup hot water

Grease a 9” square baking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening & sugar. Add egg; beat well. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Combine molasses with water. Add alternately with four mixture to creamed mixture, mixing well. Pour into pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar or whipped cream.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Savory Crescent Chicken Squares

I loved Ceil Dyer’s 1981 book, “More recipes from the backs of boxes, bottles, cans, and jars” for its pop art rendering of packaged foods on the cover before I even opened it. Though I tend to avoid packaged foods, I will say there is something to using them, and that something is called Saving Time. If you are a working mom, you know exactly what I mean, and you’ll get why I’ve since made this, and variations thereof, no less than a few times. The best thing about it is that my 7 year-old daughter not only will eat it, she will help make it!

This book is full of gems, and “all are easy to prepare, every ingredient is readily available and each is truly a classic,” proclaims Ms Dyer. Even some of the more bizarre entries, such as “Breakfast Sausage Apple Pie” (gross!) and Hunt’s Very Special Spice Cake (made with tomato sauce!!) are indeed classics, and I’m on my way to testing them all, but I started with this, a “$25,000 Grand Prize Winner at the 25th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in 1974”. Ceil says she “likes to serve it with a cream sauce and tiny green peas” (YUCK!) but I changed it a bit: I left out the crouton crumbs and the onion and pimiento bits. Do I even need to mention that I used butter, rather than margarine? Do I also need to note that I have never in my life even purchased margarine? Shudder. Anyhow, the other change I made was adding cooked broccoli, which justified my serving it as a meal in and of itself.

Since the first test, I’ve re-made this with different ingredients, or with variations on the original. Which reminds me of an ENTIRE COOKBOOK dedicated to things you can do with Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough… but that is a story for another day!

Savory Crescent Chicken Squares

1 3-oz package cream cheese, softened

3 Tbsp margarine or butter, melted

2 cups cubed cooked chicken or two 5-oz cans boned chicken

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp chopped chives or onion

1 Tbsp chopped pimiento, if desired

1 8-oz can Pillsbury Refrigerated Quick Crescent Dinner Rolls

¾ cup seasoned croutons, crushed

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium bowl, blend cream cheese and 2 Tbsp of the margarine until smooth. Add next 6 ingredients; mix well. Separate dough into 4 rectangles; firmly press perforations around edges to seal. Spoon ½ cup meat mixture onto center of each rectangle. Pull 4 corners of dough to top center of chicken mixture, twist slightly and seal edges. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with reserved 1 Tbsp margarine; sprinkle with crouton crumbs. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 4.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

I’m not sure why fresh-baked blueberry muffins sound so fancy, when they are so quick and easy to bake, you’ll wonder why you don’t make them more often! Especially if you freeze them individually in foil, so that you can heat one at a time up in the toaster oven and get that hot-from-the-oven effect any time. Say “I love you” with a muffin!

I like Betty Crocker’s 1971 “Basic Bakings” because not only are the instructions, well, basic, but also because they offer variations to most of the recipes – ways to change and “customize” the recipes that will also get you thinking creatively about what else you might do. This is a perfect method for the beginning baker, who needs to see that the recipe itself is easy enough, and then to see how it can be changed when they feel ready for adventure.

Muffins, like fruit breads, are one of those easy-to-bake joys that just work. The self-defined portion control and the ability to make almost endless varieties mean that I bake muffins of some type or another just about every week. Hello: NO trans fats and no paying $4.00 each at a café.

One final note about fruit muffins: I have a secret trick with fruit, because I always have a lot of fresh berries around, but if it looks like I won’t eat them within a couple of days, I freeze them (rinsed, with any stems removed) in 1 cup containers and use them either in smoothies or in baking. See how green I am? This is all part of my secret plan to use this blog to reduce my readers’ carbon foot-prints…


1 egg

1 cup milk

¼ cup salad oil

2 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups. In mixing bowl, beat egg slightly with fork. Stir in milk and oil. Add remaining ingredients all at once, mixing just until flour is moistened. Batter will be lumpy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 30 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan; serve hot. 12 muffins.

Muffin Variations

• Fruit Muffins: Fold one of these into batter with the last few strokes: 1 cup fresh blueberries or ¾ cup drained canned blueberries / 1 cup finely cut up raisins / 1 cup finely cut up dates / 1 cup shredded coconut

• Dinner Muffins: Fold one of these into the batter with the last few strokes: ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese / ¼ cup snipped chives / ¼ cup crumbled crispy fried bacon (** and why NOT all three? CS)

• Children’s Surprise Muffins: Fill each muffin cup just 1/3 full. Drop ½ tsp jam or jelly in center of each; top with batter to fill cup 2/3 full.

• Crunchy Nut-Topped Muffins: Mix ¼ cup brown sugar (packed), ¼ cup chopped nuts and ¼ tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture on batter in each cup.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Crepes are one of life’s delights. Relatively simple to make, they have somehow acquired a mystique that is usually reserved for more finicky dishes like soufflés, or aspics. Crepes! The very word sounds decadent and, well, “fancy”. And so it was with joy that I recently accepted the offer of my dear friend Ann Tindall to make some for me when I stayed at her house. Ann is a gourmet cook who isn’t afraid of anything, (though you really don’t need to be afraid of these!) and she made some killer crepes that we garnished the heck out of – with Bacon and Other Delights!

Ann used a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which is a time-trusted tome, but here I provide a recipe from a well-known writer of food articles from Vogue and The Saturday Evening Post in the 50s and 60s: George Bradshaw. I picked his 1969 book of “Suppers and Midnight Snacks” because, heck, I’m feeling kind of fancy, myself! See his version below, complete with brandy, vague measurements, and un-explained instructions. Of course this was written by a writer first, a cook second! And though you may giggle at him, as I did, he knows his crepes. Make up a batch and see for yourself – whether it be for a romantic midnight supper, or for a lazy morning with a friend. Experiment with fillings (lobster comes to mind in the first case) and enjoy!

“Crepes are handy things to have around the house,” he says. “They give a certain panache to a meal…If they have a drawback, it is that they are monotonous to make – pancake after pancake – so I advise you to put a bit of Scarlatti on the kitchen hi-fi. It helps.”


1 cup flour

Good dash of salt

3 eggs

7 tsp of melted butter

1 Tbsp. brandy

1tsp grated lemon rind

1 ½ cups milk

Place all ingredients in electric blender and run until batter is smooth. You must let this batter rest for a couple of hours. Don’t ask why, just do it.

A utensil that is highly convenient for this operation is a crepe pan, although an iron skillet 6 inches across will do. You also need a spatula.

To cook, heat the pan and drop a small piece of butter into it, then tip the pan in all directions so that its surface is well greased.

Pour a small amount of batter, 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls, into the pan, and then tip the pan again in all directions so that this small amount of batter covers the entire surface.

In about a minute lift up the corner of the cake and look; if it is golden brown, it is done. Run a spatula under the cake, turn it, and in another minute it will be done.

Repeat until all batter is used up. Remember to start each time with a little hunk of butter and watch skillet. It must not get too hot.

From this recipe: 18-20 crepes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ham-Fruit Ring

Oh goodness, I LOVE theme parties! And when I was invited to the Luau of the Mid Century Supper Club, I sought a vintage recipe that featured something semi-grody yet tropical, and hopefully also edible. (My history for this event has tended towards the disgusting, something I revel in: searching vintage cookbooks for The Grossest Concoction I can find, and actually making it!) But what with the rise in food costs, I decided that making something just for the Yuck factor was too wasteful. So I went to my trusty Betty Crocker green 1975 plastic recipe file, and found this recipe for what is much like a ham version of a Waldorf salad, nicely displayed inside rings of fresh pineapple. My goal was to accurately re-create the look of the dish from the photo on the card, which included laying each ring out on a bed of lettuce.

Though it was edible, it did pain me to sacrifice just about THE most perfect fresh pineapple to the cause. I saved a bit of it out to eat plain, and then forced myself to mix the rest up with sliced celery, ham and mayonnaise. It did look great, but along with much Luau food, not much of it was actually eaten that day. At that particular event, the cocktails were the biggest hit. Oh, those any my friend Lynn’s stellar pineapple-upside down cake, which I think I actually ate THREE pieces of. I’m sorry, cake? Beats ham ANYTIME!

Ham-Fruit Ring

1 medium pineapple
½ pound canned ham, cut into bite-size pieces
2 medium stalks celery, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup seedless grapes
¾ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup chopped salted peanuts or slivered almonds
Lettuce leaves
Seedless grapes

Remove top from pineapple; cut pineapple crosswise into 4 or 5 slices. Cut pineapple from each slice, leaving 1/2 –inch ring as pictured; reserve rings. Core and cut up pineapple. Toss 2 cups of the pineapple with the ham, celery and 1 cup grapes.

Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, ginger and garlic salt; toss with ham mixture. Just before serving, fold in peanuts. Arrange reserved pineapple rings on lettuce leaves; fill with ham mixture. Garnish with grapes. 4 or 5 servings.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taco Salad

Taco Tuesday has become a big thing around my house, but recently I wanted to change it just a bit – to make something that I adored growing up: Taco Salad. How tasty! How tidy! How similar to nachos, but somehow without the guilt…

I found a recipe for Taco Salad in my 1980 cookbook from the Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, called “Cooking is Our Bag” (and YES it is mine too, thank you very much!) and was overjoyed to see that it called for the favored food of my dear friend, Karen: Taco Flavored Doritos! (Note: In addition to loving Doritos, Karen also sells Tupperware, and here you can find yourself a nice container to transport your very own Taco Salad!)

Taco Salad was a big treat for me growing up, so I got out THE actual CatherineHolm serving bowl and Dansk bowls my mom used to serve her own Taco Salad in, and whipped some up. Sorry, Karen, I used plain chips, though I do like to indulge in Doritos as you know! I also added corn and avocado to make it just a little more “salad”. My mom made hers with beans, heating up a can of pinto beans and adding a can of stewed tomatoes which provided the “dressing” for the salad, which is just the perfect finish, whichever type of chips you select.

Taco Salad

1 lb ground beef, cooked
¼ tsp cumin
Half head of lettuce, shredded
2 onions, chopped
1 ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 ½ cup chopped, peeled tomatoes
12 sliced ripe olives
Taco-flavored tortilla chips, broken
7 ½ oz mild taco sauce

Mix ground beef with cumin and salt, chill. Toss with all other ingredients. If layered ahead, add lettuce, tortilla chips and taco sauce just before tossing to serve.

Serves 6-8

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cheddar-Topped Apples

When asked to bring a dessert to a Tupperware party recently, I naturally reached for my copy of their own cookbook from 1986, “Quick and Easy Cooking with Tupperware”. In the section entitled “Cabinet Cuisine”, I learned that “the secret to off-the-shelf success is stocking the right foods”, and sure enough, I had all these items at hand, so I deiced to make their Cheddar-Topped Apples and transport them in, what else, vintage Tupperware.

Now I will admit I was in a bit of a hurry when I first read over the recipe, because I got the WRONG IMPRESSION ENTIRELY about what the dish was going to be. Somehow, I envisioned apple slices with a topping sprinkled over them, such as might be served on a tray as finger-food. However, these are in fact, nothing like that. At all. Not that I’m saying they aren’t good, they just are NOT what I thought they would be. Nor, in fact, are they very attractive, so they turned out to be NOT IDEAL for a party. But, where would I be without the failures along the way, right?

So if for some reason you are really in the mood for apple pie filling, and you like that topped with cheddar cheese (a big thing, I know, I know!) but you also do NOT want to suffer the added enjoyment of a crust, this dish might be for you. Or, I thought, possibly it could be made in individual ramekins – but to be honest, just plain baked apples with cinnamon would seem tastier, and easier. This was tasty enough, just not quite… RIGHT. Read on and see what you think!

Cheddar-Topped Apples

3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 medium baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup raisins (NOTE: I left those out because I can’t stand raisins!)
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 oz)
¼ cup broken walnuts

In the Ultra 21 1-Quart Casserole (NOTE: just use Pyrex if you don’t have Tupperware / don’t want to cook in plastic!) combine the sugar, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the water and lemon juice. Add the sliced baking apples and raisins; stir to coat.

Bake, covered with the vent closed, in a 350 oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the apples are tender. Uncover, sprinkle with the shredded cheddar cheese and the broken walnuts. Let stand, covered with the vent closed, for 2 to 4 minutes or till the cheese is melted. Serves 6.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jell-O Pretzel Salad

I am sure you’re all SHOCKED to read yet ANOTHER post from me on Jell-O, right? Well this one is quite possibly the most important of all. Not only was it taught to me by my dear friend Kim Mejia as an indispensable element of every 4th of July, but it is one of those dishes that sounds horrible but is actually delicious. OK let’s be honest – it is rather obscene, but take one bite and you’ll grab the whole tray and a fork and run off for some Alone Time. Honest.

The other fantastic thing about this dish is that I found it in my 1986 [comedy] gem of a cookbook, “Cooking with Country Music Stars”, as given by none other than the Oak Ridge Boys! Come on, do you mean to tell me they really fixed this up and brought it to a pot luck? THAT is something I’d pay to see (note 1973 photo of them looking smooooth!) “Elvira – hey guys, get in here and help me with this cream cheese!” Umm, yeahhhhh…..

I must point out that the version Kim makes is the one I used, so compared to the one below, you make a few changes, as follows: use whole pretzels and melt an entire cup of butter over them as the first layer (no sugar needed). Bake for 10 min at 400 degrees, then cool. DO NOT add the cool whip to the sugar and cream cheese mixture – these are two separate layers under the Jell-O! Finally, just mix up the Jell-O as you would normally, no pineapple juice needed. You can add fruit, but it isn’t necessary. Finally, you won’t be able to serve this in nice little squares – just let people scoop blobs out for themselves, and forget the lettuce leaves. Like this is a salad, oh PLEASE!

Don’t forget that if this is for an Independence Day Party, you need to work the canned whipped cream into stripes over the red Jell-O base, and you can use blueberries for the blue part with the stars. Or just go crazy and spray the whipped cream everywhere. Heck, it’s a party, right?

The Oak Ridge Boys’ Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
¾ cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 8-oz carton Cool Whip
2 cups pineapple juice
2 3-oz packages strawberry Jell-O
2 10-oz packages frozen strawberries
Lettuce leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix pretzels, melted butter and sugar and press firmly into 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Bake 6 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Blend cream cheese and sugar in bowl. Add Cool Whip. Spread mixture over cooled pretzel crust.

In saucepan, heat pineapple juice to boiling. Add Jell-O. Stir until dissolved. Add frozen berries. Stir. Pour over cheese mixture and let set in refrigerator. Cut into squares. Serve on bed of lettuce if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Barbecue Bean Salad aka 3 Bean Salad

Recently, I was invited to a barbecue, and what better place to turn than Better Homes & Gardens' 1963 classic, “Barbecues and Picnics”. I do already have several tasty cold bean salad recipes (variations on the great Three Bean Salad), but I always enjoy trying new ones. And this one is particularly tasty – even 6 year-olds like it!

I couldn’t find wax beans, so I used white beans – and I had to use 2 cans to make the proportions /colors look right. Also, I cut the sugar a bit, added more pepper, and I added sliced red onion. OK, to be honest, I did my own rendition of it, but I’m sure it would be just as good exactly as written. In fact, I liked it so much that I made a second batch for dinner the next night. So easy and tastes of summer.

“Barbecues are such delicious fun – plan one soon!” – so instructs the book – and I say, YES INDEED!

Barbecue Bean Salad

1 1-pound can (2 cups) cut green beans, drained
1 1-pound can cut wax beans, drained
1 1-pound can kidney beans, drained
½ cup chopped green pepper

3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup salad oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Combine vegetables; toss likely to mix. Combine sugar, vinegar, and salad oil; pour over vegetables. Add salt and pepper; toss lightly. Chill overnight. Before serving, toss again to coat beans with marinade; drain. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Salad Bowl

“The enticing salad on the cover,” proclaims Better Homes and Gardens in the 1969 edition of their “Salad Book”, is "perfect for celebrating summer!" Enticing, maybe if those were marshmallows rather than cauliflowers… No, it’s OK, I love salad! And in summer, I actually crave it. (With or without marshmallows.) I tend to make the same salad over and over again, so it’s always great to find a new one, and this one was easy and tasty, so I’ll make it again for sure. NOT that I can say that for everything in this book, but really, that is part of the fun.

I also find that one of the true tests of parenthood is what you can get your kids to eat, and I am delighted to report that my 6-year-old daughter said she loved this, giving it “two thumbs up” after she carefully extracted the bell pepper slices.

The real fun was letting her use the salad spinner to play our new game: Salad Spinner Race (since I have 2 that match), where we pretended the salad spinners were high performance vehicles, and gleefully revvvvved their engines! It was a party till the lid flew off one spinner and crashed into the fridge, sending a shower of little magnets and kid art all over the place…

Ahh, the joy of cooking!

Summer Salad Bowl

Leaf lettuce
4 cups torn lettuce
2 cups sliced raw cauliflower
1 cup bias-cut celery
1 cup sliced radishes
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
Italian salad dressing

Line salad bowl with leaf lettuce. Arrange lettuce, cauliflower, celery, radishes, and green pepper in bowl. Sprinkle cheese over. Serve with Italian dressing. Serves 8 to 10.