Posted by: Erica Retrochef | December 4, 2014

Turkey Salad and Cranberry Orange Ring

For us, a Jell-o fruit salad was a standard part of the Thanksgiving table — at least until a majority of family members objected strongly enough that Grandma finally realized nobody was eating it.

She stopped making it about ten years ago, and so there’s been a distinct lack of gelatin during this time of year. It’s time to change that.


And for extra fun, let’s throw leftover turkey on the middle!


Cranberry Orange Ring

2 oranges
1 package (6 oz.) Jello-O Strawberry Gelatin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups (one 16-oz. can) jellied cranberry sauce
2/3 cup chopped nuts

Grate 1 tablespoon rind from oranges. Section oranges; finely dice and drain sections. Dissolve gelatin and salt in boiling water. Stir cranberry sauce until smooth; blend into gelatin with orange rind. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in diced orange and nuts. Pour into 5-cup ring mold. Chill until firm. Unmold. Makes 4 1/4 cups or 8 servings. Fill with 6 cups of turkey salad.

Turkey Salad. Combine 5 cups diced cooked turkey, 2 1/2 cups diced celery, 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise, and 1/4 cup lemon juice; season to taste. Chill.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | December 1, 2014

Peppermint Bonbon Cake

‘Tis the season to be endlessly annoyed by holiday sales and endless carols. And fruitcakes.

Want a high-quality peppermint dessert? Try this 1946 Betty Crocker recipe


Peppermint Bonbon Cake

Sift together: 2 cups sifted SOFTASILK, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 3 tsp. double-action baking powder, 1 tsp. salt

Add: 1/3 cup high grade vegetable shortening, 1/2 tsp. lemon extract, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, and 2/3 of 1 cup milk. Beat 2 minutes.

Add: remaining 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup unbeaten egg yolks (4 medium). Beat 2 minutes.

Pan Size: 2 round layers, 8-in. diameter, 1 1/2-in. deep. (Grease and flour pans; then line bottoms with plain paper cut to fit and greased.)

Temperature: 350° (moderate oven).
Time: 30 to 35 minutes.

Tint half the batter a delicate pink with red food coloring. Pour here and there over white batter in pan. Cut through batter several times with knife for marbled effect. Frost with Fluffy White Icing flavored with peppermint and tinted delicate pink… forming ridge around top of cake and reserving several tablespoons to use later. Melt together 1 sq. (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate and 1/4 tsp. shortening. Pour over top of cake keeping inside of ridge. When chocolate has set, drop small spoonfuls of pink icing on top to form 5 bonbons.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re on vacation this week, visiting family. Here’s hoping your holiday pie (and all other cooking) turns out well!


Posted by: Erica Retrochef | November 17, 2014

Sunny Fruit Mold


The Jell-o fruit salad — one of the few gelatin salads that can still be found at potlucks today. It therefore feels slightly like cheating to include on a retro recipe blog — but this is from 1960, and so it’s totally legit.


We really should have gotten to this familiar classic long before now.

1 package Lemon Jell-O
1 cup hot water
1 cup cold water
1 orange, freed from membrane and diced
1 banana, sliced
1 red skin apple, diced
1 cup celery, thinly sliced

Dissolve Jell-O in hot water. Add cold water. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in fruit and celery. Pour into mold; chill until firm. At serving time, unmold on crisp lettuce; garnish with mayonnaise. This Jell-O dish also makes a light, lively dessert when garnished with whipped cream. Makes 6 servings.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | November 10, 2014

Creole Casserole


This week, we’re exploring the first half of a two-recipe advertisement from General Foods. It’s an ironic mixture — a very quick-cooking tomato rice casserole, and a gelatin fruit salad which needs to set for hours.


But let’s start off with the easy, fast dinner item!

1 1/3 cups Minute Rice
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
2 1/4 cups (20-ounce can) tomatoes and juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped onion

Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Spread about one-half of the Minute Rice right-from-the-box in an even layer on bottom. Cover with 1 cup of grated cheese; add remaining rice. Combine tomatoes and juice, salt and onion in saucepan, crushing tomatoes and mixing well. Bring to boil. Pour over layers of rice and cheese. Bake covered, in moderate oven (350°F.) 10 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover; spoon remaining cheese onto rice mixture around edge, leaving center uncovered. Bake 5 minutes longer. Serves 4.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | November 3, 2014

Snow Ghost Pie

There’s something charming and frightening about this story-ad from Hershey’s. I think it might be because nothing says “winter snow” like… chocolate pie?


Snow Ghost Cocoa Cream Pie

1 9-in. baked pastry shell or crumb crust
1/2 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Sweetened whipped cream

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Gradually blend milk into dry ingredients, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until filling boils; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; blend in butter and vanilla. Pour into pie crust. Carefully press plastic wrap directly onto pie filling. Cool; chill 3 to 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream.

I’m not going to post the entire story from the advertisement here, because that’s not really what my blog is about. But you should go read it yourself. It’s about a kid remembering his grandmother’s chocolate pie, and the strange handyman who used a ghost story to convince him to steal a piece. Go read it.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | October 27, 2014

Popcorn Balls

You know what I’ve always wanted to make around Halloween? Popcorn balls. But until recently, I’d never had any way to make popcorn that wasn’t in a microwaveable bag. Scary-butter-flavored popcorn both didn’t taste right, and was also ridiculously expensive to make enough to turn into popcorn balls. But recently, I learned that there’s absolutely nothing special about microwave popcorn aside from the scary-butter-flavoring goo inside the bag. If you just take a plain paper bag and some plain ‘ol popcorn kernels, you’ll get popcorn!


1 cup KARO Syrup, Blue or Green Label
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 quarts unsalted popcorn

Combine first four ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly to hard ball stage (260°F.) or until a small amount of mixture forms a hard ball when tested in very cold water. Remove from heat; quickly add butter and blend. Slowly pour over popcorn in large bowl, while mixing well. Form into balls, using as little pressure as possible. Butter hands, if desired. Makes 15 about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.


And if you dump some sugary stuff on top, you’ll get popcorn balls!

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | October 20, 2014

Green Beans Viennese

Vegetables. They’re supposed to be included with every meal, but it always feels like a challenge to come up with something creative — and more importantly, something that the kids will eat.

Adding fruit seems like either a good idea, or a terrible idea…


2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 whole cloves
1/2 lemon, seeded and thinly sliced
1 unpeeled red apple, cored and cubed
1 medium onion, coarsely cut
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1 can (1 lb.) DEL MONTE Brand Cut Blue Lake Green Beans, drained

Heat first 6 ingredients together to make syrup. Add lemon slices; simmer until transparent (about 5 min.); stir in apple, onion. Cover and cook till apple is just tender. Thicken sauce with cornstarch mixed with water. Add drained beans; heat, stirring lightly, till beans are hot. Makes 4 to 5 servings. Good with fish or pork.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | October 13, 2014

Steak ‘n Egg Pie

There was a great brunch restaurant that Buzz and I loved when we lived in Boston. He always joked about one day ordering steak and eggs with a side of steak and a side of eggs — joked for years, in fact, and then finally one day did it. It was a lot of food, and the waitress thought we were absurd, but he was pretty happy.

And so any chance to try steak and eggs… such as this steak ‘n egg pie… he’s generally in favor of.


4 eggs
1 lb. minced steak
1 tablespoon flour
16 oz. tin of spaghetti
2 oz. grated cheese
Crushed cheese jatz biscuits

Make the “pastry-less” pie-casing by combining mince with 1 beaten egg, flour and salt. Press into 9″ pie dish. Bake blind for 10 minutes. Beat remaining eggs with seasoning; stir in spaghetti and cheese. Fill casin and sprinkle with crushed cheese jatz. Bake 20 minutes or until filling sets. Serve with vegetables … serves 5-6.

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Posted by: Buzz | October 6, 2014

Liquor Store Grandma’s Cheese Fondue

The liquor store we generally go to is the closest one to our house. Usually, the woman working the cash register is a petite, middle-aged lady with a difficult-to-place European accent. Somehow, she does not meet the stereotype of somebody particularly knowledgeable about alcoholic beverages.

However, on one of my visits, I was having difficulty finding the bourbon. So I asked where it was, and she immediately whisked me over the correct section. (The bourbons were hiding in plain sight near the end of the scotches, naturally.) Then she started asking me questions about what I wanted it for, what kind of flavor I preferred, and what price range I was looking at. She gave me the pros and cons of half a dozen bottles and helped me select the one that would best suit my needs at that time (Four Roses Bourbon, it turned out).

That is the story of how my household was introduced to the remarkable woman we call “the Liquor Store Grandma” (because we don’t actually know her name). It turns out that Liquor Store Grandma knows about a lot of stuff besides booze. Whenever she talks to her customers, she always seems to have an informed opinion. The last time I was there, picking up the ingredients to make brandied cherries, she was talking to somebody else about cybersecurity.

I was having trouble locating the last bottle of Kirschwasser in the store, and when I asked her about it, she told me that she uses it in cheese fondue. It turns out that she’s from the the French Alps (which probably explains why I had had a hard time placing her accent), and she loves fondue. She explained her very simple recipe for it—a modern update of the way her family had been making it in the old country since time immemorial. And we decided to try it out.


Her recipe starts with the right bread. “Your American bread is too soft. It doesn’t stay together in the cheese,” she told me. The correct place to get French baguettes was the bakery next to the post office in Camden, South Carolina. And, she insisted, you had to get them fresh that morning.


It turns out that we drive the thirty-five minutes to Camden most Saturday mornings already, since they have an excellent farmer’s market just off the main square. Having gotten her recommendation for the Mulberry Market Bake Shop, we started buying stuff there as well. The chocolate croissants are the best I have ever had, and the French bread is also amazing.


Once you have the bread, the recipe is simple. She said not to bother trying to melt the cheese in a fondue pot, which you have to keep stirring forever. Just pop the cheese in a bowl in the microwave for twenty minutes on the the lowest setting, and it will melt. Then add a small amount of cherry brandy, and you are ready to dip!

We got a traditional mixture of emmental and gruyere cheeses and plopped them in a bowl (after cutting off the hard rinds). After the recommended twenty minutes, it was indeed just melted. However, a lot of oil had separated from the melted cheese. (I think it mostly came from the gruyere.)


We moved it to the fondue pot and added a the Kirschwasser, a little splash of brown on top, but it didn’t really penetrate well, despite a lot of mixing.

The heat from the sterno can under fondue pot had to be kept low. Otherwise the cheese would burn to the bottom of the pot. We started dipping and pulling out the gooey cheese.


And the cheese definitely was gooey—much too gooey to be convenient. With the oil separated out, it had the consistency of melted hard cheese, which makes for long, entertaining strands but does not come off easily onto your bread. The bread itself, however, held up despite the density of the cheese.


Overall, this was difficult to eat. The flavor was good, although the cherry flavor was very subdued. I looked online to get an idea how much to add (since Liquor Store Grandma didn’t specify), but you might want to use more than the two tablespoons per pound of cheese that I tried. The Ten-Year-Old blew the fondue off entirely, and the Seven-Year-Old got somewhat frustrated with the dipping process. However, all three kids loved the crusty French bread.

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