Monday, September 29, 2014

Downton Abbey Costume Exhibit!

Staff uniforms of Daisy, Thomas, & Mrs. Hughes
A couple of weeks ago for a post-birthday girl trip getaway I met my friend Katherine at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. It was only about 2 hours away, so not too bad a drive! The Winterthur Museum is a lovely, private museum and house that was owned by Henry Francis du Pont. He was an avid collector of American decorative arts and was also a dedicated gardener. His natural gardens are really lovely.

I had heard last year about the museum hosting an exhibit, the only of its kind in the U.S., of the costumes of the first three seasons of BBC's Downton Abbey. I've followed the show and have enjoyed it, though I'm not obsessed. :-) I adored the costumes from the first two seasons (before the 20s hit) and so I really, really wanted to see them in person!

Katherine and I gave in to our completely girly, giggly side as soon as we walked into the exhibit, especially when I found out we could take pictures. It was fabulous! The exhibit winds through the seasons, starting from the beginning. At the start you get Mrs. Hugh's dress, Thomas's butler's suit, and Daisy's maid's dress. There were oodles and oodles of signs, hardly any of which that I read. To be honest, I didn't want to read about Edwardian servant culture. I just wanted to see the costumes!

First impressions: these were definitely costumes. The materials used were interesting. On some of the costumes where antique fabrics and laces were used, you can really see their wear and tear.

The other things that unexpectedly stunned me is that you got a very real sense of the stature and build of the actors who wore those costumes! I was surprised how broad-chested Dan Stevens is. (He plays Matthew Crawley.) And Brendan Coyle, who plays John Bates, was shorter than I was expecting. It was all very interesting!

Edith's wedding gown train
I was never very fond of Edith's wedding gown, though the beadwork on the train was fantastic and so beautiful. It's such a shame you don't see much of it in the show.

Love me some British hunting tweeds!
The hunting tweeds were awesome! I adore British hunting tweeds and wish I had my own outfit...

Sybil's shocking Harem Pants outfit!
The show stopper for me was Sybil's harem pants outfit. It was spectacular! It was one of the outfits with antique lace and you could see where it had unfortunately torn. So lovely though. I loved seeing it in the show and it was even better in person.

The velvet jacket is a lovely deep olive green,
though it's hard to tell from the photo
Another stunner was Lady Cora Crawley's white beaded dress. The beadwork was exquisite! I remember seeing it in the show and sighing over its loveliness.

Overall, it was a great exhibit and Katherine and I enjoyed it thoroughly! We were even able to take corny pictures in front of a huge backdrop of Downton Abbey itself. Haha!

To see all my pictures of the costumes on display visit my flikr album here!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 38 - Golden Corn Bread

Golden Corn Bread
It had been awhile since I'd pulled a recipe from my Thifty Cooking for Wartime cookbook by Alice B. Winn-Smith. I guess I haven't used her book as much as I thought I would because so many of her recipes are practical, familiar, and not that crazy. I'll admit the crazy recipes tend to grab me more just because they're so strange and interesting.

However, I have been really falling in love with Thrifty Cooking for Wartime just as a cookbook itself. Her recipes really are so practical and flexible. And that's the whole point of the book.

I love her take on what realistic wartime cooking should look like. Just like today in modern times, they didn't always have every single ingredient a recipe called for. She was advocating using what you had on hand without feeling the need to run to the store for just one or two ingredients that may or may not be in stock.

Since fall has arrived alarmingly on time out here in Maryland, I felt like I needed to make some cornbread to go along with all those lovely soups that are so comforting on chilly nights (or mornings!).

Ms. Winn-Smith had a pretty basic cornbread recipe with very interesting "Thrifty Changes". I loved the idea of cornbread with bacon and cornbread with fruit! She recommends peaches or apricots, but I opted for apples which are really coming into season now. She also mentions that you can change out the sugar for honey or syrup (which I took to be maple syrup), and you can use either sweet milk or sour and tells you how to change the leavening if you do.

I love how she just makes you feel so independent and confident as a cook! :-)

Flour (I used a gluten free blend + xantan gum), cornmeal, baking powder, salt, milk,
maple syrup, egg, melted butter, apple and bacon for my add-ins.

First you sift all the dry ingredients. The dry sugar would go in at this step. Oh yeah, and you should grease a shallow baking pan too. I always forget to do that at the beginning.

Next you pour in the milk, maple syrup or honey (if you're not using dry sugar), melted shortening, and the egg. Stir until well combined. I noticed my batter was really thick. I'm used to a cornbread batter consistency more like pancake batter. If you like it looser I suppose you could add a little more milk.

I chopped up my apples and bacon.

This is where I got creative. I only wanted to make one recipe for cornbread, but wanted to try both bacon and apple - but not together, though that would have been tasty! Since the batter was so thick, it was easy to put half in with a piece of parchment paper separating the sections. I put the bacon over the top of one. Then I stirred the apples into the remaining batter and put it on the other side.
Two for the effort of one, baby!

Bake in an oven preheated to 425º F for 20-25 minutes. The directions for the bacon version said to put it on broil for the last couple minutes to really crisp up the bacon. I did that, but covered the apple half with foil to keep it from over-browning.

Golden Corn Bread - two ways!

I couldn't wait to try it. Both version were quite good! The cornbread itself was sweet and a bit on the denser side, but not in a bad way. It was hardy, I guess you could say.

If I had been thinking, I would have shoved a layer of bacon down into the batter and then layered more on top, because it really needed more bacon. I was worried all that fat would make it weird on top, but that wasn't really a problem. The bacon flavor with the cornbread was awesome. And, seriously, who doesn't need more bacon??

The apple one was nice. My son thought it tasted a little like apple pie. I agreed, though it could have done with some cinnamon and of course more apples. I was a little shy on the add-ins. :-/

Also, I think whole wheat flour always improves a cornbread recipe. If I could eat it I would totally have used it. Oh well! I'll definitely be making this cornbread again with a few tweaks - and more bacon!

Once again, my hat goes off to you Ms. Winn-Smith!


Here is the recipe with all the great "Thrifty Changes"!

mmm... toasted cheese....
Cheddar with maybe some grilled jalapenos? :-)


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Humorous Takes on History

I think historical accuracy is important, but sometimes it's really fun to take a jab at history and stretch it just a bit for entertainment's sake. I've found two things I had to share that I find extremely hilarious (not to mention really cool) and they both happen to do with the Revolutionary War. I hope you enjoy!

The first is a skit called "Founding Fathers" by comedy troop Studio C. If you haven't heard of them, I'd recommend checking them out. I'd describe them as a much cleaner version of SNL. No, not all their skits are awesome enough to gush about, but there are a lot that really stand out and are always good for a laugh. (If you want to know the really good ones, just let me know! haha!)

The next is a music video parody by Soomo Publishing. It's set to the song "Too Late to Apologize". I'm not a fan of the original lyrics, but this version changes the words to be about the Declaration of Independence. It's compelling, funny, and downright cool! Okay, it's a little silly too, but in a sweet rocker way. You'll just have to watch it. :-)

Do you know of any funny takes on history? Feel free to share!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 37 - Molasses Lemon Pudding

I was very interested in this week's ration recipe for Molasses Lemon Pudding that I found in Grandma's Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes. Initially I was interested because a pudding made with molasses and lemon sounded so bizarre I just had to try it! But then as I was making the recipe I realized that this was a pudding made without any milk whatsoever!

This recipe would have suited the Brits well, I think, since it doesn't have any milk. The amount of sugar would have been a bit of a hang up though. It calls for 1 cup and then molasses on top of that. One cup of sugar would have been a lot to give up all at once for just one pudding recipe, but I'm sure you could get creative if you needed to, using honey or golden syrup to replace some of the sugar.

As for today, if you or someone you know has a milk intolerance like in my family, this pudding recipe is worth a look.

Ingredients for this ration recipe include sugar, cornstarch, salt, molasses, water, lemon juice, lemon peel, butter, and eggs. On another note - a whisk is a must for this recipe!

In a double boiler (or a metal or glass bowl set over a pot of water) combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch with a whisk, then add the cold water, boiling water, and molasses. Whisk to combine and heat over hot (boiling) water until it thickens. I found that I had to whisk it frequently as the cornstarch would thicken at the bottom, but not on the top and it was getting clumpy.

Meanwhile, whisk the two eggs until light-colored.

Heating up the molasses pudding mixture.
The eggs, lemon stuff, and butter are waiting to go in.

Once the molasses mixture thickens, scoop out and slowly add some of the hot mixture to the eggs while whisking. Then slowly add the egg mixture back into the molasses mixture whisking the whole time. (This process of tempering the eggs helps keep them from curdling when you add them to the hot pudding.) Heat and whisk until very thick.

Whisk, whisk away! 

Remove from heat and fold in the lemon juice, butter, and lemon peel.
Stirring in the butter, lemon juice, and lemon peel

Dish out into individual dishes and serve hot.
Molasses Lemon Pudding
 It looks a bit like caramel pudding...

Well, folks, let me tell you that this recipe totally took me by surprise! I tasted the pudding before I added the lemon and the molasses flavor was very distinct. I wasn't a total fan. But after adding the lemon, the taste was transformed! This pudding was amazingly yummy. The lemon was the most dominant flavor while the molasses had become a complex background note. I really loved it hot. I did put it into the fridge to chill to see the difference. Once it becomes cold the lemon is more subdued and the molasses is more pronounced. Eating it hot, in my opinion, is the way to go.

The texture was nice and smooth, but the key to that was definitely all that whisking. The downside of using cornstarch, I suppose.

This is definitely not your typical pudding recipe, but I'd say it's definitely worth a try!

Molasses Lemon Pudding

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water
1 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. butter

Combine sugar, cornstarch, cold water, and salt in the top of a double boiler. Stir in boiling water and molasses. Cook over hot water until thick. Beat eggs until very light. Gradually stir in some of pudding; return mixture to remaining pudding in top of double boiler and cook until very thick. Fold in lemon juice, butter, and lemon peel. Divide into dessert dishes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Savoring the Past" w/ Jas. Townsend & Son

I just love these 18th century cooking videos created by Jas. Townsend & Son! They are completely awesome. Even my kids (ages 7 & 4) watched quite a few of them with me and enjoyed them, especially the ones featuring Jon's little girl. It's been great supplementation for our Revolutionary War studies and has gotten my son excited about trying a few of their recipes. He wants us to make the currant jelly which is perfect because I have red currants sitting in our freezer waiting to be made into something delectable.

These videos have also gotten me freshly inspired to get to work making our Rev. War clothing so we can be ready to go to an event next year. Just seeing all their cool tools and cooking dishes..! *sigh* As a teenager I drooled over their print catalog which was chock full of everything you could possibly dream of to use at a reenactment or a museum.

This whole time I had no idea they were from my home state of Indiana. I wish I'd known when I lived there! I could have gone to their physical store. I guess that means when we make our mid-west road trip next summer, we'll be taking a little detour... Haha! And I am super stoked to be getting their most recent catalog in the mail soon. Hooray!

Awhile back in the first weeks of my project, I did a ration recipe for Scotch Eggs. I was interested to see that Jas. Townsend & Son had a video about making Scotch Eggs. You can watch it below:

It's amazing how different these 18th century Scotch Eggs are from their WWII ration cousins. Using a boiled egg would be so much easier than reconstituted eggs! I'm going to have to try this version. I think it would make a fabulous breakfast on the go or at an encampment, don't you?

There are so many of these fantastic food videos that they've made. You really need to check some of them out. (They even have a full-length film called "Crimson Bond" and a zombie movie! haha!)

And be sure to check my Historical Food Blog links on the left for their blog "Savoring the Past". You can find all their 18th century recipes on there.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 36 - Vegetable Beef Soup w/ Biscuits

Some weeks I need something super fast and super easy to do for this ration project. This week was one of those. My dinner-time creativity is scraping bottom, so it's been a struggle lately. I was glad I remembered this recipe I had seen in the July 1943 issue of the Westinghoue Health-for-Victory booklet. It was a winning recipe tip sent in by a reader:

I didn't have unexpected company, but I needed a time saver, and this recipe was so simple! 

So, while I waited for my husband to come home I made up the biscuit dough. I've mentioned on here before that I've had to switch to a gluten-free diet for health reasons. I didn't want to miss out on this yummy-sounding recipe, so I used a ration biscuit recipe but substituted a gluten-free flour mix + some xanthan gum as a binder for the all-purpose flour. I was glad I used a ration biscuit recipe because I noticed an important difference between that recipe and my usual recipe - a 4 tablespoon fat difference. The ration recipe called for 4 Tbsp. shortening while my usual biscuit recipe calls for 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp.). I really love the less fat being used, just because sometimes I don't want to use a whole half cup of butter. It's kind of expensive! I was actually out of butter this time, so I used lard. Hooray!

Once the biscuit dough was mixed up I put it in the fridge and ran to the store almost as soon as my husband walked through the door and could be with the kids. (Aren't I clever! haha!) I picked up the soup she recommended - vegetable beef (thank you, Campbell's!), but had to settle for a gluten-free lentil vegetable soup for me. I imagine many soups would work as long as they didn't have noodles or a ton of rice in them.

I poured the 2 cans of soup into the casserole dish along with the needed water, stirred, then cut out the biscuits and laid them on top - just like you would with dumplings. I did the same with my soup. It was a bit thicker and didn't need water, but I added a little so it wouldn't dry out too much. (Lentil soup is more stew-ish to begin with.)

Then I baked them for 1/2 hour at 400ºF. The biscuit recipe says 450º, which would have probably gone faster. I didn't mind having a 1/2 hour to myself though. :-)

I think they turned out looking rather nice!
My gluten-free lentil soup w/ biscuits

Vegetable beef soup with biscuits
 The soup was quite a success with husband and son. They loved it. My lentil version was very delicious too. Our 4-year old daughter is always suspicious of new things, but will sometimes try them. After some resistance she tried a biscuit I pulled off the top and ate the whole thing. She got a big high five. :-)

Kudos to Mrs. Whipp and her time-saving, ration-point saving, and unexpected company-saving dish!
Vegetable Beef Soup w/ Biscuits

Here is the biscuit recipe I used from the same July 1943 Westinghouse issue.

You might want to keep this one on file for when you have some unexpected company pop in or have a really busy night!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 35 - Hot Potato Salad & Frankfurters

I wanted to pick a special, but familiar recipe for the holiday week and was happy to find this interesting 1940s take on potato salad for Hot Potato Salad and Frankfurters. It really should be called Hot Potato Salad with Frankfurters, Bacon, and Boiled Egg. I love that this recipe is so protein heavy since I'm not a fan of a lot of potato salads out there. This one, though, is almost a main dish unto itself.      One thing that I found interesting is that the recipe has you boil the potatoes and then peel them. I've always peeled my potatoes first. And while the Brits wouldn't approve of jacket-less potatoes, boiling them actually helps save on potato. Peelers removes some of the potato meat, but boiling and then peeling using a thin paring knife to lift the skin off, makes the skins only peel off paper thin - no potato meat included. Pretty nifty! 

For this recipe you need 5 medium potatoes, 4 frankfurters, 8 slices bacon, and 2 boiled eggs along with the other odds and ends you see below:
 Potatoes, bacon, skinless frankfurters (hot dogs), boiled eggs, salt, onion, vinegar, black pepper.

Boil the scrubbed potatoes in water until tender all the way through. In the mean time fry the bacon which you cut into 2 inch pieces.

Slice the hot dogs and mince 3 Tbsp. of onion. Set aside.

Once the bacon is crispy, remove to drain on a paper towel and pour off half the bacon fat.
Mmmm. Bacon. We love bacon around here.
It's the only meat my 4 year old will eat reliably.

Cook the hot dog pieces and minced onion in the bacon fat until nicely browned. You'll probably need to drain off all the extra fat so your potato salad isn't greasy. I had to do that.

Once the potatoes have cooled a little, peel the skins off. Then dice the potatoes. Add to the hot dog and onion mixture. Mince the boiled egg and add it in. Stir in the salt, pepper, and vinegar. Mix until well combined.

The recipe has you heat the potato salad over the stove top until all the ingredients are heated through. I just skipped this step and went straight to eating it, because I really couldn't wait.

Oh, this hot potato salad was so good! It was really tangy from the vinegar. I might have liked a little bit less, but it was still really good. All the protein in there from the meats and the egg really hit the spot. It was awesome. And the bacon had a really good crunch, even when it was cold. (I ate it both ways - fabulous!)

This recipe is a winner. You might like to make it for the next pot luck or holiday party. You won't find this one at your grocery store deli, that's for sure!

Recipe from
Westinghouse Health For Victory Meal Planning Guide
December 1942
P.S. Sorry, just an hour late on posting this for week 35! I'll have another recipe for this week coming soon.

Update August 27, 2015 - I made this for a pot luck and it was immensely popular! That made me so happy (hooray for ration recipes!), and I wanted to pass it on. You might like to bring it to your own pot luck.