Saturday, June 11, 2016

WWII Event - Graeme Park, PA

The last weekend in April my family and I attended our first WWII event as reenactors at Graeme Park, PA. It was a nice, small event and super close to some friends of ours, so it was a really enjoyable first event with the bonus of hanging out with friends. I wish I had had more time to learn about the site. There's a lovely historical home, garden, and other outbuildings along with a small museum. We'll have to go back another time to enjoy it separately.

To get ready for the event, I wanted to get the kids involved, so they painted "Scrap for Victory" signs to hang from our old wagon. They had a lot of fun doing that.

I put together a display about wartime rationing, but I realize now that there's a lot to read and not much to interact with for the public, so it's something that I'm working on. It's a good start though!

And here's our whole set-up along with the wagon! (Oh, did I mention that it was cold?? It was cold.)

Here I am in my new 1930s blouse and 1940s skirt! (which I altered later and changed the buttons...) My husband was dressed as a 1940s Scoutmaster...

... while our kids were dressed as a 1940s Brownie Girl Scout and 1940s Cub Scout!

There was a small collection of antique cars. This one was pretty!

Our next door neighbors had an impressive display about the history of Kilroy. We had some nice chats with them.

My friend Cassie and her mother-in-law Eileen had a great American Red Cross set-up at the event. I'm hoping to be able to join them at some events in the future wearing the royal blue ARC canteen uniform so I can talk about rationing and nutrition during the war!

Another neighbor down the way was the British Women's Land Army run by Laurel and her sister. Their camp was so charming, I instantly fell in love. I have good memories of researching British women's roles in the war, so I was thrilled to join up with their group and am working on doing research on Land Girls and Lumber Jills and getting together an outfit! 
One of the ladies in the WLA happened to be the mother of Rochelle who blogs over at Lucky Lucille!

Isn't their camp just wonderful? It's so cozy! And I love that they have a photo of King George hanging in their tent! They were very friendly and welcoming and invited me to snoop around their tent and take photos. They even offered me some Jammie Dodgers, so they're my new best friends now. haha!

During the day there were two separate battles. It was the first time I've watched a WWII mock battle and it was interesting! I've watched so many Civil War reenactment battles. There were some similarities, but of course the weapons and vehicles were different. They did a great job, though. And I wasn't surprised to hear some spectator make a ridiculous statement about how they weren't using the real thing, so it couldn't possibly be that realistic. Well, of course not! Some people really make me wonder...

Overall, it was a really nice event and one I'm pretty sure we'll be returning to in the future. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ration Recipe - Woodrow Wilson Hermits

wikipedia commons
These cookies have been on my Cooking on a Ration recipe to-make list for some time. They just sounded fun! And since when do you get to think about our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, while making cookies? Like, never. So, here's to you, Woodrow! These cookies were pretty dang good!

I couldn't find very much on why these particular cookies are attributed to Mr. Wilson, but I did find this interesting article about his wife!
Here are two websites that talks about U.S. Presidential recipes:
A Taste of the Past: White House Kitchens, Menus, & Recipes
Food Timeline - U.S. Presidents

Now about making the recipe -
The batter was suspiciously like brownie batter, and I didn't even put in all the liquid it called for. Then it says to shape the cookies using a knife wet with milk. I was wary of this method too. Luckily, the recipe gave me a little out - it said I could make them as bars, which was a relief! So, that's what I did.

And surprise! They turned out like cake. What???

But that was okay, because they were really good. It reminded me a lot of a gingerbread cake, but with raisins in it. (I used zante raisins, otherwise known as "currants". They're not true currants, but that's okay. I love them because they're tiny raisins and people don't mind them as much as the big, regular-sized raisins.)

My kids love these hermits. It makes a great snack, or a great breakfast. Just pretty much any time.

Give them a try! Let me know if you make them as actual cookies. I'm really curious now!

Woodrow Wilson Hermits
Cooking on a Ration, ca. 1942
P.S. My friend Katherine found this other recipe and a history of hermits at the Joy of Baking website. Apparently they're called "hermits" because of how long they can store. And it's true - ours have held up really well and still taste great! Of course, I wish mine looked like the ones on the Joy of Baking website. I'll definitely have to try them again.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ration Recipe: Upside-Down Meat Loaves

It was time to try another recipe! I put this recipe on my June menu (I'm trying to be good about menu planning...), but I decided to try it today. I didn't have all the exact ingredients, but I made it work, which I think is the point about cooking while on rations.

I took this recipe for Upside-Down Meat Loaves from Meta Given's The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942. I really love this cookbook, but I'll save my waxing poetical for a special post about it. 

This is actually just your standard meatloaf recipe, except you bake it in a muffin tin and there are apricots involved. Mixing fruit with meat isn't uncommon, but this was an interesting pairing, because in my experience, apricots can be kind of tart.

The recipe has you soak 10 dried apricots, but I didn't have any, so I just reconstituted some freeze-dried apricots I had. I think some fresh, dried apricots would have worked better, because you use them whole and they tend to be sweeter/sweetened. Just like Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, you put the apricot on the bottom and the meatloaf mixture on top. Then you bake it, invert the pan, and there you have it!

I really should have greased the muffin cups, because they didn't come out very easily, but oh well!

The meatloaf itself was nice, the apricots were a weird, tart counterpoint which I thought the fat in the meat would mellow, but it didn't. In the end, it just tasted odd. Nothing a little ketchup and mustard couldn't solve! haha!

I'm going to have to try it again using the single dried apricot on the top of each mini-meatloaf. Also, I'd like to try the meatloaf the recipe mentions ("Meatloaf No. 1") which uses a meat mixture of pork, beef, and veal. Interesting! I used the recipe for "Meatloaf No. 2" which is much more standard - ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, milk, salt, & pepper.

Upside-Down Meat Loaf!
 This is still worth a try and an interesting concept! I'm sure you could come up with your own tweaks!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ration Recipe - Rhubarb Banana Pudding

 This was a recipe I saw in one of my more recent ration cookbook acquisitions: The Wartime Cook Book. It definitely caught my eye! I mean, rhubarb and bananas?? Who does that? I was telling my friend and fellow WWII-era fan, Loris, about it and she told me that banana recipes were all the rage in the 1920s and 30s. I had no idea! After learning that it made sense. They had to try all the banana combinations out there, didn't they? haha! And you know what? This turned out to be a really interesting dessert.

The only improvement I'd make is to double the bread cubes. There wasn't nearly enough bread to soak up all the moisture, even though it doesn't seem like much liquid is added. A lot of juice comes out of the bananas and the rhubarb too, which I didn't really consider. I ended up adding more bread cubes after baking and that made it a lot more like a bread pudding. Next time I'll double the bread cubes.

I'll be honest. The color is nothing to get excited about. It's this weird green/tan color. But if you cover that in whipped cream, you're good to go. The flavor is so interesting! It's mildly sweet, but tart. Kind of like apple, but without the apple flavor. The banana is a very subtle flavor in the grand scheme of the pudding. But the bread cubes browned in butter add the perfect note of salty fat that the pudding needs. I think it's pretty good! My family isn't a fan, so I'm slowly eating it by myself. Good thing I have plenty of whipped cream! :-D

Here's a fun picture from the cook book.

This phrase is at the bottom of every page!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Historical Sewing Challenge #11 - Red

For March I sewed a 1930s blouse, but because of a few set-backs I didn't finish it until the beginning of April. (I'm really late posting about it too. Sorry!) I'm really happy with it! And it turns out, that doing a mock-up can be a good thing. Usually, I don't bother, but I didn't want to ruin my nice, more expensive material. This is a bonus, because now I have 2 blouses to wear. Yay!

And I love, love, love this material! It's a super 1930s-style print, fun, and colorful, and it really makes me happy to look at it. I even bought special vintage buttons to go with it! 
So here's the breakdown:

The Challenge: November - Red

Material: 100% cotton print

Pattern: Wearing History 1930s Smooth Sailing Blouse

Year: 1930s

Notions: cotton thread, 1940s casein buttons

How historically accurate is it? 99% The pattern is a modern one, but based off originals.

Hours to complete: approx. 8-10 hours

First worn: Saving it for a WWII event this weekend at Graeme Park, PA

Total cost: about $45 for fabric and original buttons

This is a weird picture of me, but I don't have many photos of me wearing it yet.
I'll take a bunch at the event!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ration Recipe: Red Flannel Hash

Red Flannel Hash
I'm slowly making my way through the list of recipes that captured my interest from Cooking on a Ration by the fabulous Marjorie Mills. Last week I gave Red Flannel Hash a try. This was one of the more complicated recipes only because I had to make another recipe first - New England Boiled Dinner - in order to make the Red Flannel Hash. Using corned beef was optional for the hash, but I had some leftover corned beef from post-St. Patrick's Day, so I definitely wanted to put it in.

First step was to make the boiled dinner. It made a LOT. Carrots, cabbage (You're supposed to boil the cabbage head whole, but I didn't do that since I was on a time crunch.), turnips, onions, and beets.

Since I cooked the corned beef another time, I couldn't use the broth from that, so I cooked the veg and chopped corned beef in vegetable broth instead. We had that for dinner as a kind of soup which was pretty tasty. We didn't have it with the beets, which you cook separately, because they were too hot to chop, and I was feeling lazy.

Boiled New England Dinner, sans beets
Then, another day I chopped up the beets, ran a portion of the boiled root veg through my food processor, then added the bread crumbs. Then I shaped them into patties to cook in some oil. It did not hold together, so I added some fine cracker crumbs and an egg before it finally did. I didn't serve it with vinegar which would have been good, but with a garlic sour cream, kind of like latkes? Anyway, the Red Flannel Hash was good, but different. I wouldn't say it was a favorite with the family, and I barely got the kids to try it. I think they're still wary of beets.

I don't know if I'll make these again, but it was a good experience. And it's an interesting way to use beets, which I do love!

Red Flannel Hash
Cooking on a Ration by Marjorie Mills

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cool Websites!

I've found some really neat WWII websites!

I was in Pennsylvania yesterday and drove through Abington. I passed a sign that said something about Abington and WWII. I was driving too fast to read the whole thing, so I made a mental note to look it up when I got home. Well, this morning I did a search and found that Abington, PA is the home of the WWII Lecture Institute, dedicated to connecting with WWII veterans so they can share their stories with the public and to preserve their memories for future generations. So awesome!! You can check out their website here. They're looking to expand to neighboring states, including Maryland, so that is really exciting!

The second website I found I am really excited about. I was searching online for a Michigan factory my great-uncle said he worked at during WWII. I stumbled on the website for the Heritage Research Center LTD. They have a really cool way to look at wartime production during the war organized by state, then broken down by city. It lists the different companies, what they normally produced, and then what they produced during the war. This is completely fantastic for research! Take a look at their site here. I have it set to Michigan, but you can choose a different state from the drop down box.

Online resources have really come a long way. There is so much quality research we can do from the comfort of our own home. I am so grateful for that!

Happy researching!

P.S. I dug more into the WWII Lecture Institute and their website is sadly out of date. I hope their institute is still going though. How sad if it wasn't!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ration Recipe: Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice
Lately, I've been trying to be better about menu planning to help us save money on food and so I don't feel so overwhelmed when dinner time comes and I have no idea what to make! I've been planning one month at a time which has been nice. This month I was determined to fit in some ration recipes.

Last night's menu included Spanish Rice which I found in my book Cooking on a Ration by Marjorie Mills, ca. 1943.  Something I've noticed about 1940s "ethnic" food, is that the recipe is the most watered-down version possible of that ethnic food. They just didn't use a lot of spices. This recipe called for more spices than usual - salt, pepper, paprika, and a teeny bit of cayenne pepper. I was quite surprised! And I really couldn't resist. I had to add some garlic powder. I know I shouldn't have, but the Spanish Rice was just begging for garlic, and I couldn't say no! Other than that I followed the recipe. I only keep white short-grain rice around (aka sushi rice!), just because I love the texture and long-grained rice kind of grosses me out sometimes. I'm sure that the recipe would taste a bit different if I used long-grain rice.

I had to laugh that the recipe said to sprinkle "buttered bread crumbs" along with shredded cheese over the finished Spanish Rice. (I melted some butter and tossed the bread crumbs in it.) Then you bake it in the oven. It pretty much turned it into a casserole right there with the bread crumbs. haha!

Well, I shouldn't have laughed. This recipe was killer! (though I'm sure the garlic powder helped...)

After sauteing the onions, celery, and peppers in my cast iron skillet, I cooked the rest of the Spanish Rice in there. Next, I cooked the chicken I was serving with the rice in onion/pepper scrapings and seasoned it with cumin, garlic, salt, and paprika. Then once the chicken was done, I cooked some Trader Joe's frozen grilled corn in the same pan. All those blended flavors were so, so good. And the Spanish Rice was really delicious!

It makes me so happy to eat a successful Ration Recipe. I think the addition of black beans would have been great too, but I am definitely going to be making it again.

Give it a try!

Another 1930s Quilt

I haven't forgotten about my March sewing challenge! I finished my 1930s mock-up blouse and am still working on the actual blouse, but should be finished soon. I'll hopefully be posting about it within the next week.

Last Saturday I took a nice trip alone to the antique mall. I love wandering large spaces with hundreds of booths stuffed full of cool antiques! One of the stalls was 40% off everything and had quite a few quilt tops with awesome vintage fabric! It was so hard to decide on just one. A few of them had nice examples of 1930s fabric, but it was mixed in with later period fabrics like what I suspect was 60s or even 70s. I finally settled on a lovely, simple quilt top with all 1930s fabrics. I'm excited to get this one finished - I just need to get some cotton batting and pick out a fabric for the back. I'm thinking of tying it too, so it theoretically could be finished quickly!

Here's my quilt top! Isn't it so pretty? I don't have any heirloom quilts from family, so it's going to be nice having this one at least. :-) 

Take a look at these cool fabrics!

I really like this one!

Something I noticed with some of the quilt tops that were there, was that even though vintage fabrics were used, the construction looked new. So, with this particular quilt, it's hard to say whether the construction is as old as the fabrics, but for me it was the fabric that was important. And the whole thing is in great shape. I'll have to re-post about this again when I get it all finished!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ration Recipe: Carrot-Oatmeal Cookies

Carrot-Oatmeal Cookies
Spring is officially upon us! At least that's what our plethora of daffodils, sprouting rhubarb, and leafing berry and lilac bushes are telling me. I am so excited for another berry season and so excited for my four (FOUR!) rhubarb plants. I am going to have rhubarb coming out of my ears... :-D Perfect for trying a 1930s recipe I found for Rhubarb and Banana Pudding!

So, yesterday I had some ground up carrots lying around, and I wanted to make another ration recipe. So, I turned to my trusty wartime cookbooks. I am becoming more and more convinced that I really don't need to search on the internet anymore for recipes. I have more interesting and delicious recipes at my fingertips than I know what to do with. And once again, for my carrot dilemma, my Westinghouse Health-for-Victory cookbooks came to the rescue!

 The recipe is for Carrot-Oatmeal Cookies. They sounded super yummy. When I was making them, I was putting in the teaspoon of cinnamon, a whole teaspoon of nutmeg, raisins and nuts, and I had the impression that I was making carrot cake, but with rolled oats...

I liked the currants in my Hot Cross Buns so much, that I used the rest of them up for this recipe and they were the perfect size! I don't mind raisins in my cookies, but the smaller the better, really. And usually I hate nuts in my cookies, but I think with the rolled oats and raisins, the pecans I put in worked well. The recipe I was using called for shredded carrots, but mine were chopped in a food processor. Oh well! The dough tasted fantastic, but the real test came after they were baked.

Fresh out of the oven, my daughter and I sampled the cookies. They were awesome! Mildly sweet, with a great texture and chew with the oats, but nice flavors with the spices and nuts and raisins/currants. This recipe is a keeper for sure, and a great way to use up extra shredded or finely chopped carrots! It's a nice change from regular oatmeal cookies too.