Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 42 - Vegetable Pie with Cheese & Oatmeal Crust

Ration recipes come to the rescue again! I didn't know what to make for dinner tonight, but I found this great recipe in my "Eating for Victory" book which is a compilation of British reproduction pamphlets from WWII. There are a whole lot of things I love about this recipe for Vegetable Pie with Cheese & Oatmeal Crust.

1) It's fast and easy. You only have to make a top crust.
2) If you cheat like I did, you can use mixed frozen vegetables - already prepared. Or you can just use whatever veggies you have on hand.
3) It has creative ways to make your flour and fats stretch.
4) It offers a healthy dose of veggies.
5) The recipe is a meatless meal, which would have obviously saved on your meat ration.

Okay, first of all I have to defend myself about the frozen veggies. You might think they didn't have frozen veg back then, but actually they did! Alright, so maybe they weren't that available in Britain, but frozen vegetables were available in America and had been since the end of the '30s in select areas of the country. (Trust me, I wrote a capstone paper on the topic!) :-) So, I just concluded to myself that this was a Britsh/American hybrid pie. Ha!

What really grabbed me about this pie recipe was the really creative crust. It used mashed potato and oats to extend the flour and cheese to extend the fat - the mashed potato helps with that as well. I thought the flavor of the cheese, depending on what kind you use, and the texture of the oats would make for an exciting, different type of crust! I was really excited to try it.

Ingredients: cooked vegetables, stock, parsley, grated cheese, flour, rolled oats, mashed potato, lard, and salt.
The recipe listed everything in ounces, so I measured everything out on my trusty postal scale.
I have the recipe measurements down at the bottom of the post.
Put the cooked veggies into a pie dish* and sprinkle the parsley over the top. It calls for fresh parsley, but I only had dried.

*Note: Before this step, I would suggest taking a 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and toss the cooled, cooked veggies in it. Without any thickener, all that stock just sits there doing nothing but flavoring the veg and then the pie ends up soupy as you'll see later! With the flour, it could be making a nice gravy as it bakes.

Once again I was too shy with my salt. I'd say it needed between 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. of salt.

Add stock and seasoning - salt and pepper. I used part stock, part vegetable water from my cooked veggies. Wouldn't the British wartime government be proud of me? :-D

Mash together the lard and the mashed potatoes until well combined. Notice the bits of potato peel? I was using leftover homemade mashed potatoes and I like having some peels left on. Just think of all that fiber and those vitamins! Eat those jackets, soldier! Haha!

Haha! He's so cute!
 In a separate bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, and shredded cheese together. I used an extra sharp cheddar which had a great flavor, but I wonder what the Brits would have had on hand...

Combine the flour mixture with the potato mixture until well blended. Add water slowly and stir until you have a nice stiff dough.

 Roll the dough out...

 And fit it over the top of your filling. I crimped the edges to make it look nice and cut a steam hole so it wouldn't come spilling out the sides.

Pie crust and veg filling.
 Bake in a moderate (350ºF - 375ºF) oven for about 30 minutes. I had my oven set to 350º, but had to leave it in for 40 minutes to get the top nice and golden.
My lovely pie is all done!
 When I cut open the pie, there was nothing to hold the filling together, so I had to scoop it out separately from the top crust. Blah!

You can see how soupy the filling is with no thickener:

The pie tasted very nice, actually and I think it was a great idea for a fast and easy dinner. It was nice only having to roll out one pie crust. The pie crust itself was awesome - the flavor from the cheese and the texture of the oats made for an interesting and great-tasting crust. I would definitely use the recipe again.

There were two downsides to this recipe - the lack of thickener for the filling and the unstated amount of salt. I'm getting better at knowing how much salt there needs to be for savory things based on the amount of flour or ingredients used, but the crust could have used more salt. I guess I'm still learning! The filling definitely needed more salt. But that's something easy to tweak. I really think, like I mentioned above, that if the veggies were tossed in a 1/4 cup of flour, the issue would be solved. I'd definitely like to try this one again. 

Give it a try and see what you think. And if you discover any other ways to tweak the recipe, let me know!

Overall, it was a great recipe that showcased British wartime cooking tactics to make a filling and healthful meal. 
from "Eating for Victory"
I served our pie with a nice salad.
Here are the recipe measurements in case you don't have a scale:
(Keep in mind these are approximate. You might need to tweak a little.)

Vegetable Pie with Cheese and Oatmeal Crust
3 cups cooked, mixed vegetables (chopped mixed veg, or a frozen blend of veg that has been cooked and water drained - better yet use the cooking water to supplement the stock called for)
1 Tbsp. dried parsley or 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
1 cup stock
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup mashed potato
2 Tbsp. fat such as lard, butter, or margarine
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup shredded cheese, loosely packed
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. salt (according to taste)
about 1/4 cup water

Follow directions as written in image above.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 41 - Praline Cookies

This week I wanted to try another "magic!" recipe using sweetened condensed milk. During a trip to a local antique mall a few months ago I found a similar recipe pamphlet to my other Borden Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (SCM - way faster to write!) cookbook. This one is smaller, but it has some different recipes in it. This booklet was also published sometime in the '30s.

I've made the point before that recipes weren't static during WWII. People didn't just chuck all their old, beloved recipes just because a war was on. No doubt, women found a way to make their recipes work or found that some were able to translate well to war-time rationing as is the case of many recipes in this 1930s recipe book. Using SCM was a great way to get more dairy into the diet like the government recommended during the war and it also saved on sugar!

I was really interested in this simple cookie recipe for Praline Cookies, especially because it required you to caramelize the SCM. I've always wanted to try it, so I thought this would be a great time! It does take 3 hours to boil to create this amazing caramelized stuff, also known as dulce de leche, but you can do it in a pressure cooker for a fraction of the time! Check out this website for their directions.

So, as you may have already guessed, this recipe is a two-parter. I cooked my can of SCM one day and made the cookies another day, because on top of boiling it for 3 hours, you have to let it completely cool before opening it too.

I took my can of SCM and removed the label.

Then I filled a large pot with water - I could have done three cans since I had enough room! I ended up putting the can on its side so the water would have enough clearance above it. It's important to always keep the water level above the can while boiling it.

I boiled it for three hours, adding hot water as needed to keep the water level up. And - here it is cooling down!

I opened it up and was amazed - it worked!And it tasted wonderful - lightly sweet and milky caramel. My daughter dug her fingers into it several times when I wasn't looking. Arrg... haha!
beautiful caramelized SCM!

For cookie making day - the recipe called for butter, caramelized SCM, chopped pecans, flour, an egg, and the optional Mapeline flavoring. I ended up using it and thought it added a nice flavor. 

I roped my 7-year old son into helping me because this is what the recipe book claimed:

He was a little surprised, but pleased I think, to be let in on helping me with my ration recipe. Usually I do it all alone because I find baking to be theraputic and the ration recipes are just my thing. :-)

 Cream the butter and add the caramelized SCM (only half the can, or the whole can if you want to double the recipe. You just might want to...) Blend together.

Lightly scramble an egg and add the flour. Not sure why though, because it just becomes a pasty egg mess on its way to becoming pasta dough.
Here's my son slaving working away!
(Don't worry, I helped!)
 Add the egg/flour mixture to the butter/SCM mixture and blend. Then add in the Mapeline.

Last, stir in the chopped pecans.

These cookies spread a lot, and the recipe makes about 24, so line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and spoon out 12 cookies per sheet.
This is my son's cookie sheet. I can see I need to let him have more experience with cookies!
But I think it looks awesome for his first try!

Bake in a 350ºF oven for about 17 minutes. Cool on a cookie rack.

And enjoy!! These cookies were really good. Not many of them are left and they just might disappear tonight... What I loved about these is that they have a nice texture, the flavors all stand out well, and they are so lightly sweet! I'm really sensitive to sugar and get instant headaches if I eat too much, but these didn't bother me at all. It was nice that they didn't call for any extra sugar on top of the SCM. 

You'll definitely want to try these!  
Yummy Praline Cookies
courtesy of Borden Eagle Brand SCM 1930s-era recipe booklet!
 Here's the recipe:

And because I know you're dying to know - what does it mean... cooking by magic???

I used these pictures to approximate the date of the
booklet since it's without a publishing date.
 More very valuable information... and photos! Knowing the difference between SCM and evaporated milk is very important! You can always tell by the shape of the can! Huh, who knew? I never really even thought about it before.

And here's a bonus recipe for a fun cookie recipe! 
I like that it's similar to Mrs. Winn-Smith's theory of using one basic recipe with various substitutions to change it up with what you have on hand. 

Happy Cookie Baking!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 40 - Cole Slaw

I like this war poster a lot!
It's one I haven't seen before.
There's nothing fancy about this week's ration recipe! Cole slaw is one of those things that people seem to like the one particular way they like it and forget the rest - like potato salad. I've had this particular ration recipe on my list for awhile, just because I am not really a cole slaw girl. I didn't grow up eating it, and most of the time the sauce is too vinegary or too cloyingly sweet. Blech. So, I wanted to break out of my comfort zone a little and make it for this project - it's cole slow for goodness sakes, so not a huge stretch!

What's interesting to me about this recipe is that the sauce calls for evaporated milk and uses straight up cabbage. No other veggies. I cheated a little and used some matchstick carrots I've needed to get rid of for awhile and to supplement my partial head of cabbage.

What makes this a good ration recipe? It gets veggies in your diet. And that's about it! Everyone, even back then, needed more ways to get those all-important vegetables in their diet. I suppose the evaporated milk makes it another good ration recipe. I wonder, though, if evaporated milk is used because it doesn't curdle from the vinegar... Not 100% sure about that though.

The recipe is very basic: cabbage, evaporated milk, sugar, salt, & vinegar.
I added in the carrots.
Shred the cabbage very finely.

Whisk together the  vinegar until the sugar is dissolved. (I'd say mostly dissolved. I think my vinegar was pretty saturated with dissolved sugar and there were still some granules left after whisking for a few minutes.) Put in the salt and whisk.

Add the evaporated milk and whisk until thick or at least well combined.

Pour the dressing over the shredded cabbage and toss to coat all the cabbage.

Serve it up cold!

This cole slaw was actually quite tasty! I like red cabbage, though the flavor is a bit stronger and the texture is a bit tougher which might turn people off. The salad was very crunchy and the sauce was bright and not too sweet. I think the carrots were a nice addition, and I think doing a combination of both red and green cabbages along with the carrots would add a nice visual color contrast to the salad. I'd say it's definitely worthy of bringing to a pot luck.

Here is the recipe with a few dressing variations you can try. The recipe came from one of my 1943 Westinghouse Health-for-Victory cookbooks and it seems to be a common one found in most of their issues from what I've seen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 39 - Chinese Chews

I've been doing some studying and research on an interesting aspect of the WWII American homefront. Most people who have learned a bit about WWII know about the sad and unfortunate internment of Japanese-Americans in camps in the U.S. There are a number of autobiographies about the topic which are both touching and mournful.

Well, lately I've also wanted to learn more about the other Asian-Americans' stories like the Chinese-Americans and even the Korean-Americans. Their stories are actually a bit harder to come by, but from what I have learned there is a lot of fascinating history there!

When the Japanese Americans were put into internment camps, it put the other Asian-Americans in an awkward place - should they stand up for the inhumanity of such an act by the American government? But if they spoke out against it would they be targeted as being friendly to the Japanese? As it was, most Americans couldn't tell the different Asian cultures apart and many Chinese-, Filipino-, and Korean-Americans suffered persecution and violence as a result of the despised Japanese, enemies to the United States. So in the end, many of them spoke out in favor of the internment.

What in the world does this have to do with food or rationing? Hang in there! I promise it's coming. :-)

There is actually a personal side to this story. No, I don't have Asian ancestors myself, but my great-aunt married a Chinese man. In the 1930s. In the mid-west! Recently, I have been learning a lot about her from my great-uncle who is still alive, and I am completely fascinated with her. Why did she marry a Chinese man and in the mid-west of all places, in the 1930s?? My great-uncle with his amazing memory was actually able to tell me. She, in fact, was greatly influenced by a book, of all things. It's called The Vintage of Yon Yee by Louise Jordan Miln published in 1931. It's the story of a Chinese-British young woman and the two men who love her - one is British and the other is Chinese. I decided to read it myself and it was amazing. The story is an intriguing look at the culture and feelings toward mixed marriages of that time. I think it would be a fabulous book club read that would generate a lot of conversation! Anyway, it's incredible that my great-aunt was inspired by such a book to marry a Chinese man in the 30s when prejudices were so high and right before the outbreak of WWII. It was such a rare thing to happen and I have really grown to admire her brave and unique decision.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, of course it has to do with this week's ration recipe! It's always interesting to see how Americans take another culture's food and make it their own. Pizza is a great example. This week's recipe for Chinese Chews is actually a holiday cookie recipe. The recipe asks for dates and pecans and besides those two things there's nothing that special in them. Why in the world are these cookies considered Chinese? Is it really the dates - or the pecans - or both? I have no idea. Is it an altered version of a Chinese cookie? Your guess is as good as mine. But someone at some point must have thought so.  (If you are very familiar with Chinese cuisine and can answer these questions, by all means please let me know!)

In any case, let's get on to the recipe. It calls for dates, pecans, flour, 1 CUP of sugar, 2 eggs, salt, and baking powder. There's a reason why this recipe was in the holiday sweets section!

dates, sugar, salt, baking powder, pecans, flour, eggs

 In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the sugar.

The recipe says the dates and the pecans need to be "cut". I thought this was an odd term. But then when I tried to put my not-so-fresh (and very dried out) dates in my food processor... man, that was a mistake! Pretty much nothing happened. I only hope that my little, ol' food processor doesn't hate me. I ended up having to chop the nuts and dates with a knife. Seriously, use some fresh dates! They're softer and easier to cut. :-)

"Cut" the pecans and dates. Whatever that means...
 Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt over the dates and nuts in a bowl. Add the sugar/egg mixture and stir until combined.

The dough is pretty stiff.

Then spread the mixture out on a greased pan. I didn't trust that this sticky mess would come off even a greased pan, so I used parchment paper. It was hard to get the mixture very thin because of all the dates and nuts.
I forgot to take a picture before putting it in the oven. Pardon the poor oven lighting. :-)

Bake for 40 minutes at 325º - 350º F. *sigh* That is a terrible range! I baked mine at 335º and I think it was still too hot. I'd opt for the lower temperature just in case. Or lessen the baking time to 30 minutes.

This recipe makes 20 "pieces".

Arrg! This recipe was so vague! 20 pieces of what? Is it a bar? Is it a cookie? I think it would have made better cookies, but I was just following directions, people.

Okay, so I took my first bite and... it was like biting into a bowl of raisin bran cereal without the milk. I am not joking. These things taste exactly like raisin bran! Which is strange because there are no raisins and no bran in the recipe.

When they were warm they were fairly soft, but when they cooled they are quite the workout to eat! No wonder they call them chews. But the Chinese part? I'm still clueless on that one. If you end up making these, you might as well throw in some Chinese five-spice. It might take away the sense of eating a bowl of cereal and it would lend the recipe title a bit more legitimacy.

These "chews" weren't bad. But they were stinkin' sweet. One entire cup of sugar devoted to these is a bit much. If you're feeling adventurous tweak the recipe to your liking and let me know! From looking around the internet, this seems to be quite a traditional holiday cookie too. So if you don't like this recipe, you can always look around for a different one!

From Westinghouse Health-For-Victory 1944 Year 'Round edition
(The recipe doesn't mention adding in the salt, but just add it in with the flour.)

P.S. I just found a great blog post at about making a version of Chinese Chews and she did a lot more historical digging than me. Check it out here! (The Chinese thing is still a mystery though.)