Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winner Announced & Lessons Learned

The winner of the amazing Health for Victory booklet is...

Heather M. H.!

Thanks to everyone who entered! And thank you so much for stopping by to check out some of the amazing and interesting recipes I've experimented with in 2014. I appreciate every single visit. :-) I hope you'll continue to come back and try some of the ration recipes I've featured here.


So, through a year of cooking my way through all kinds of WWII ration recipes I've learned a lot. Among the things I've learned are:

1. The cooks of the  '40s were awesome at portion size. They never ceased to amaze me.

2. There are great ways of replacing sugar in recipes like using jams/marmalades, sweetened condensed milk, cake crumbs, canned fruit syrup, and molasses!

3. There was a huge different between the rationing experiences of the Brits compared with the Americans. The Americans had much more variety in ingredients and recipes.

4. I conquered some fears to try some odd recipes involving liver, Jello (and salt!), gelatin-enhanced butter, tomato aspic, crazy whipped cream alternatives, and soya flour. I gotta be honest. Some of these recipes ended up being tossed to the chickens. :-)

5. The British and the Americans were endlessly creative in getting their nutrition into their wartime diet. Nutrition was up there in patriotic duty with doing your bit in war/volunteer work and buying war bonds.

6. I will never think of packing a lunchbox in the same way ever again. Using slices of a quick bread loaf (like the delicious Orange Honey Loaf) to change things up for a sandwich is brilliant!

7. The women of the home had a really tough job balancing war work, volunteering, childcare, home care, and meal preparations with the added stress of dealing with rationing and ration points/tokens!

8. Frequent desserts became a standard part of the American diet during the 1940s. Comfort foods and sweets were all part of boosting morale and they've stood fast in our culture to this day.

9. Fat was invaluable. They needed to save every last drop.

10. It's always good to try new foods and recipes, even if they seem scary at first, because they might turn out to actually be pretty good... but if not, at least you tried it! You can always learn from every experience whether good or bad.

Haha! I've always loved this poster!
And finally, here is a list of the top 10 best and the top 10 worst recipes that I tried this year! I thought it might be good to have a recap and a future reference. :-)

There were a whole lot of yummy recipes, but I had to narrow it down somewhat!

Top 10 Best Recipes:

1. Prune Nut Cake
2. Cornish Pasties
3. Mint Tinkle
4. Beet Relish
5. Oatmeal Drop Cookies
6. Raised Chocolate Cake
7. Cocoa Syrup w/ Honey
8. Pork Roast Victory Dinner
9. Praline Cookies
10. Hot Potato Salad w/ Frankfurters
(Bohemian Kolache and Peanut Brittle would have come next... Yum!)

Top 10 Worst Recipes:
1. Scotch Eggs
2. Sandwich Fillings - Liver & Onion
3. Tomato Aspic
4. Scones
5. Chinese Chews
6. Whipped Cream (British version)
7. Soya Fudge
8. Lemon Sunshine Salad
9. Frankfurter Casserole
10. Knox Gelatine Spread

What a fun and educational year it has been! I'll be sad not to be trying out a ration recipe every week and posting about it anymore, but I think I'll still try one out periodically and write about it on here. There's no one saying I can't, so ha! :-)

Be adventurous and try some WWII ration recipes! 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 52 - Strawberry Refrigerator Cake

I have my son to thank for the last ration recipe of my project! I was making last week's recipe, the Peanut Brittle Ice Cream, and on the next page he saw the recipe for Strawberry Refrigerator Cake. He loves strawberries, so when he saw that he begged me to make it. haha! I had a few recipes I was debating about, but he was so cute about asking me, and it was a technique of the time period I haven't experimented with yet, so I thought why not? Not to mention, I thought ending the project with a celebratory cake was a great idea!

For me, refrigerator cakes are something I associate with the 1950s, but they apparently date much earlier than that. In the 1940s, more people than ever had replaced their ice boxes with refrigerators thanks to widened availability of electricity. The air circulated better and they kept things cooler; not to mention you didn't need large blocks of ice delivered. Many refrigerators even had little frozen compartments big enough for making ice cubes, but little else. (Frozen food was still in its infancy.)

I wish I knew when refrigerator cakes first came on the scene, because whoever discovered them were geniuses! The best thing about them is that you make them quite a few hours in advance. When dinner comes around, you pull it out of the fridge and you've got a fabulous dessert! An added benefit is that you don't waste any fuel baking it in the oven. Plus, there is no sugar used in this recipe at all - just sweetened condensed milk and vanilla wafer cookies. That would have been a big bonus for saving on your sugar rations.

I am entirely new to refrigerator cakes, so I was excited to try this one out. I also love that the ingredients are very simple: sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, strawberries, egg whites, and vanilla wafers. I doubled the recipe because I wanted to be sure to fill my deep spring-form pan to the top. :-) Otherwise it would probably fill a regular 8"-9" round cake pan.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a large bowl. Add the lemon juice. Stir until it thickens.

Slice the strawberries and add to the bowl. Stir gently to incorporate.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the strawberry mixture. (Yes, there will be raw egg whites in this recipe! Remember, we don't bake this cake.)

Looking good and it tasted pretty yummy too!

Line a spring-form pan or a "narrow oblong pan" with waxed paper. 

Put down a layer of the strawberry mixture, covering the bottom in a good thickness - maybe 1"?

Put down a layer of vanilla wafers. Continue layering until the strawberry mixture is used up. End with a layer of vanilla wafers.

Layering is all complete! I was worried everything wouldn't fit!
Refrigerate the cake for 6 hours or more. I'd say the taste definitely improves with time. I made the cake in the evening and we tried it the next morning for breakfast. :-) Then we ate the rest after dinner. I felt it tasted much better 24-hours later.

Carefully remove the spring-form pan and the wax paper. I have no idea how you'd manage it in any other kind of pan. Maybe just skip the wax paper lining part? 

It's beautiful!!

I still had to remove the bottom of the spring-form pan, so I had to invert it onto a plate and back again. *sigh* You can see my glorious cake got a little squashed because of that process. Oh well. It's the taste that truly counts!
Look at those layers!
I gave this great-looking cake a try and it was quite yummy! The texture of the filling was very nice. It reminded me of a mix between a Cool Whip pie and a very soft cheesecake. It was pleasantly sweet and lemony with the added texture and flavor coming from the strawberries. I really thought the strawberries would streak the filling pink, but they didn't. The cookies weren't as soft as I thought they might be when I first tried it in the morning, but by the evening (24 hours after making the cake), they had softened up nicely. The cake was light, but held its shape well. 
My son, who originally requested this cake absolutely loved it, as did the rest of my family! It was gone by the end of the day - always a sign of great culinary success!

You can tell the cake held its shape fairly well, even after sitting out for an hour. 
If you don't mind the raw egg whites, this cake is a wonderful one. Definitely give it a try! 
Strawberry Refrigerator Cake
Metropolitan Cook Book - approx. 1942-43

The other recipes I was considering come from a resource I didn't get to use for this project. I got this sweet little reproduction book from my good friend Mairi that she found over in Scotland. It's called "War-Time Cookery to save fuel and food value".

Remember that I said it was a reproduction? Take a look at those rusty staple stains!! I have to say I love that about the Brits. They fully embrace the flaws and imperfections in their original historical documents! Even the rusty staple stains are in the reproduction. Love it!!!

I thought these recipes looked interesting. If I had more weeks I would definitely have given these a try.

I thought I'd show my little baking corner where I've worked on all my ration recipes:  

Me with my last ration recipe. Thanks for following along! :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - End of Project Give Away!

To celebrate the coming close of my project next week, I wanted to sincerely thank all of you who have followed me on this fun and crazy adventure of making one ration recipe a week for the year 2014. I hope I've inspired you to try some of these amazing historical recipes, and if not, I hope I've given you something interesting to read and learn about at least! :-)

As an extra special thank you, I wanted to give away* one of the amazing resources I've depended on for this project - an original copy of the August 1943 Westinghouse Health for Victory Meal Planning Guide!

This issue focuses on the importance of getting "the basic 7" into wartime meals. It has some fabulous food photos and is an intriguing historical look at the ration diet. The best part is that it has tons of recipes!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below with: 
1) your first name
2) which ration recipe post was your favorite and why 
3) which ration recipe you'd like to try

The deadline is December 30th. I'll randomly select a winner next week on the 31st! 

Make sure to check back when I announce the winner, because I'll need your mailing address if it's you!

P.S. Even if you haven't followed this project all along the way, but have stopped in a few times, this give away is for you too! I appreciate every visit to see what I've been cooking. :-)

*This blog is not-for-profit! So, no advertisements from me, no required Facebook likes or Twitter blurbs or anything. It's just purely me saying THANKS! :-) 
And since this is out of pocket for me to ship, I'm sorry, but I can only ship to the U.S.A. or APO addresses. 

Project 52: Rationing - Week 51 - Peanut Brittle Ice Cream

I was having a hard time coming up with my last couple recipes to try. It's just so hard to choose! I was going through my books and I found a resource that I bought awhile back, but hadn't used for this project yet - "Metropolitan Cook Book". I couldn't believe I'd forgotten about it! When I saw the recipe for Peanut Brittle Ice Cream I knew I'd found this week's recipe! Ice cream has been on my list of ration recipes to make too, so it was perfect.

To me, peanut brittle, like candy canes, means Christmas is here. :-) Usually a bunch of festive ice creams come out around Christmas-time like Peppermint Ice Cream, but I honestly can't say that I've seen a peanut brittle flavor in the stores. I don't know why. It seems an obvious combination to me.

The interesting thing about WWII and ice cream is that ice cream production was stopped during the war because of the milk and sugar rationing. If people wanted ice cream, they had to make it themselves with ingredients that were available.

While folks on the home front weren't able to get commercially produced ice cream, soldiers fighting overseas were definitely served ice cream! The October 1943 cover of the Health for Victory guide features a photograph of a sailor happily digging into a dish of ice cream. Inside the cover it explains:
"Remember the story of the aircraft carrier, Lexington? Doomed to sink as a result of the terrific battering she took in the Coral Sea Battle, her  men delayed abandoning ship until they had made a gallant attempt to eat up the ice cream supply. Later reports said that they went over the side with their helmets packed full of the precious stuff!" haha!

It goes on to say that "thanks to Science" and a device called the "mechanical cow" that converted dry milk into "milk that tastes as sweet and fresh as that you get from your dairy", Navy ships and submarines were able to serve their troops milk foods like ice cream on board. It continues, "Ice cream and other milk foods have a value far beyond morale, as the Navy well knows. These foods are so important to the health and well-being of our men that some means had to be found to provide them - even undersea or underfire." So cool!

Since all that milk was being dried and sent overseas to the fighting troops, it made milk a lot harder to come by for Americans. As a result, some of those homefront ice cream recipes got pretty creative!

Well, just glancing at this recipe I knew that this was not going to be your average ice cream recipe. To begin with, the base is made using evaporated milk... thickened with flour! Sounds kinda gross, doesn't it? You'll just have to wait to find out! :-)

To start with I had to make peanut brittle from a ration recipe. This recipe alone could have been its own recipe for the week, because it is definitely not like the peanut brittle you might think of today!

The biggest difference I figured out is that it doesn't use baking soda to make it all foamy and it also called for lemon extract! Also, regular shelled, salted peanuts are used which I like, because I'm not a fan of those red skinned peanuts that are commonly used in peanut brittle. Another funny thing about this recipe is that it has you pour out the candy once it's done cooking and then when it's cool enough to handle you're supposed to stretch it. Strange! The stretching did make a difference in the final texture - making the candy much thinner and easier to eat.

I didn't really document the making of this one, because the nature of candy making does not mesh well with stopping to take pictures!

Before stretching
After stretching
 Then you break it up into little pieces. The lemon flavoring gives it a really interesting, but pleasant taste. My family and I loved it! I actually think I like it better than modern peanut brittle.
Here's the recipe:

Okay, now on to the ice cream portion of the recipe!
I needed evaporated milk, flour, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Why in the world did I need lemon juice for vanilla ice cream you wonder? I have no idea!

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and 1/2 cup evaporated milk diluted with 1/2 cup water.

Heat this mixture over the stove in a double boiler or whatever fancy contraption you come up with instead - like mine! haha! Heat it, stirring constantly, until it becomes thickened. Then you stick it in the fridge to chill - maybe about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
In the meantime, stick an unopened can of evaporated milk in the freezer to chill while your sugar/milk mixture is chilling in the fridge. Interesting, eh???

After the hour is up for the can of evaporated milk in the freezer, take it out and measure 1 cup of the milk into a bowl - it will have slightly crystallized. And then you whip it! That's right! It's another way of making whipped cream, folks. I wish I'd known this when I did my whipped cream ration recipe back in October!

Lovely whipped evaporated milk!
It only whipped up to soft peaks, but still, I was impressed!

 Next, you chop up the peanut brittle, though I really should have followed the recipe when it said to grind it up. I wondered what the point was if you lost all that lovely peanut brittle texture, but the reason is because the whipped evaporated milk isn't strong enough to suspend those huge candy chunks which will just sink to the bottom otherwise...

Take the chilled sugar/milk mixture out of the fridge, mix in your chopped/ground peanut brittle.

Carefully fold the whipped milk into the sugar/milk mixture. Mine didn't want to mix at all. It was partially because of those huge chunks of peanut brittle. *sigh* That's what happens when you don't follow the recipe! 
My cute 7 year old son was nice and took this picture for me!
 Pour the mixture into a "refrigerator" dish and freeze it for 3 hours.

Peanut Brittle Ice Cream
It looks good, doesn't it? The texture was interesting. The whipped topping froze separately on top while the sugar/milk mixture sank to the bottom. Nothing a little mixing won't solve once partially frozen, I think. 

I tasted this one really eagerly. I mean, Peanut Brittle Ice Cream sounds so divine! I'm sad to say that that stinkin' lemon juice in the recipe ruined it for me. It was so hard to enjoy a vanilla ice cream that was masked by that weird tang of lemon. Arrg! Luckily, it's an easy thing to solve - just leave it out! As for the texture, it was nice. I think the evaporated milk worked wonderfully, and thickening with flour was a pretty good idea. I didn't notice the flour in there at all. 

This is not the only ration ice cream recipe out there, but those will have to wait for another time. :-) If you're not up to making your own ration ice cream, I suggest that you get your favorite plain Jane vanilla ice cream, chop up some peanut brittle and mix it in. Oh my! That's a winning combination if there ever was one. 

If anything, definitely make that peanut brittle. It's quite the awesome stuff, and different, which in this case is a good thing!

Metropolitan Cook Book - date unknown, approx. 1942-3
Notice the Peppermint Candy one too!

 As a bonus, here is the inside foreword to my wartime Metropolitan Cook Book. Strangely, there is no date, but the information in the foreword is unmistakably WWII and really interesting.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 50 - Eggnog

Borden's Elsie the Cow - 1952
I don't know about you, but eggnog was a Christmas tradition in my family growing up. The holidays just wouldn't be complete without a glass of sweet, cold, creamy, nutmeg-hinted delight. I just love that stuff! I've had all kinds of eggnog over the years. Some amazing, some not that great. I even made my own cooked eggnog from scratch as a teenager once. I think I ended up scorching it on the bottom, because I don't remember it tasting that great. Regular ol' store bought eggnog, in my opinion, is too cloyingly sweet and much too thick. I always thin it out with milk. It also has a bunch of weird junk in it. Then a few years ago I tried an eggnog made from grass-fed cow's milk & cream... oh my. It was amazing! All eggnogs are definitely not created equal.

I was really excited to try an eggnog recipe for one of my final ration recipes. And I'm pretty sure that most people will not want to try this recipe. The biggest reason is because this Eggnog recipe uses raw egg.

I know this is a subject that gets people feeling testy, so this is all I'll say about it: I grew up unabashedly eating raw cookie dough and testing raw cake batter. It is sad that the salmonella issue surrounding raw eggs keeps people from enjoying raw dough and recipes like this one. I recently came across a recipe for Raw Eggnog on a homesteading site (The Prairie Homestead) and I like what she says about it. (Her blog is definitely in the raw milk camp which is a whole different topic of debate.) I like what she says about eating raw eggs though - how the main cause for concern really comes from store-bought eggs from chickens raised in unnatural and unhealthy conditions and not eggs from pasture-raised healthy chickens. We get eggs from our own chickens, so I don't feel it's a concern for me. If you'd like to make this recipe, I'd recommend getting your eggs from a farmer near you that you can trust, or you can make a cooked eggnog recipe where the egg is still in a liquid form, but it is cooked.

As far as I can tell from recipes, people in the 1940s were not worried about eating raw eggs. I've only ever seen raw egg used in drinks recipes, like a breakfast drink for instance. Eggnog is another obvious one that is perfect for the holidays- or anytime really!

So, let's get to it! The ingredients are wonderfully simple: one egg, 3/4 Tbsp. of sugar, 1 cup milk (I used whole milk), some vanilla and nutmeg.

Whisk the egg, then add the sugar, whisking it in.

Before adding in the sugar I took the additional step of straining my egg through a fine sieve. I am not a fan of stringy, slimy, egg white and definitely didn't want to be drinking it. It made a huge different in the texture of the egg, making it smooth and creamy. Just what you want for an eggnog!

Whisk the egg and sugar mixture with the milk. Add a splash of vanilla and some nutmeg to taste. Mix it up and you're done!

You may have noticed that this makes just enough eggnog for one person. How perfect!

Because everyone needs to be able to make a single-serving size of eggnog at a moment's notice!!

Oh dear. There seems to be only enough for me.
Don't mind if I do!

This eggnog was absolutely delicious! It was light, smooth, just the right amount of sweet and all around perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better eggnog. And I made it in less than five minutes. Not bad! The best thing is that the sugar and nutmeg are adjustable. That's always the benefit of making something yourself. :-)

Here's the recipe:

H for V cookbook - December 1942