Posted by: Erica Retrochef | October 27, 2014

Popcorn Balls

recipe
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!

OLD-FASHIONED POPCORN BALLS

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.

karo-and-popcorn

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…

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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.

recipe

4 eggs
1 lb. minced steak
1 tablespoon flour
Mustard
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.

ingredients

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.

cheese

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.

melty

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.)

fondue

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.

tasting

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.

serving

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.

Posted by: Erica Retrochef | September 29, 2014

Peaburgers

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We’ve sampled the Batchelors peas recipes before — remember Savoury Scalloped peas? And here’s another, with a slightly less strange recipe but just as strange a story.

recipe

Hopefully Peaburgers are just as good!

1 can Batchelors peas
2 teacups brimful stale breadcrumbs
2 level teaspoons salt
1/4 level teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon ketchup or piquant sauce
1/4 level teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons thick brown gravy
Pinch herbs
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoon chopped onions

Chop and fry onions in a little fat and water until soft. Mash peas and mix all ingredients together including onions. With floured hands form into eight shapes. Fry in shallow fat for 10 minutes. Serve with potatoes and gravy.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | September 22, 2014

Peas Indienne

The saddest part about some retro recipes is how poorly they do at “appreciating” some styles of cuisine. Want to make your peas taste like they’re from India? Just add curry powder.

recipe

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, according to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1 can (17-oz.) DEL MONTE Early Garden Peas

Melt butter or margarine. Mix in curry powder, add peanuts; sauté 2 min. Add well-drained DEL MONTE Peas and mix carefully with a fork till peas are hot. (Be sure to use a light hand — remember all these peas are tender!) Serves 4.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | September 15, 2014

Bacon-Tomato Soup Sandwich

Today we decided to try a “new” idea for lunch: broiled soup sandwiches. We can always count on Campbell’s soup advertisements to come up with some truly strange attempt to turn soup into sauces, but it’s slightly new for them to invent an entire sandwich line.

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So yesterday, we decided to try making these for lunch. I’ve got a few cans of cream of mushroom soup in the cupboard more or less constantly, and so BACON-TOMATO SOUP SANDWICH was on the menu…

recipe

Put 4 slices buttered toast on cookie sheet; top each with 2 slices tomato, 2 slices cooked bacon. Stir 1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup till smooth; add 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp. minced onion, 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire; pour over open-face sandwiches. Broil till hot and bubbly. Serves 4.

In the accompanying photograph, it looks like cream soup poured over bacon and tomato. Think an open-face BLT, but with mysteriously absent lettuce.

Perhaps the green leafy vegetable went on strike? I certainly would be if I heard I was going to get drenched in “sauce” instead of getting to hang out with my regular accompaniment.

ingredients

The pile of ingredients is a strange intersection of sensible sandwich parts (toast, bacon, tomatoes) and… sauce stuff (everything else).

bacon

A delicious, ripe summer tomato paired with high-quality bacon is a simple but delicious combination.

soup

Oh, but this is a broiled soup sandwich, so there has to be soup in here somewhere.

sauce

In fact, there needs to be soup all over the place.

Yeah, I know. It looks like you ordered a BLT, but they were out of lettuce, so instead the cook sneezed on the sandwich and hoped you wouldn’t notice.

serving

The soup-sauce itself was surprisingly bland, but it did lend some creamy flavor to the sandwich. It also made everything soggy. The broiling step was pointless — we would have been better off just heating the soup and then pouring it on. Adding the milk was pointless and made it much too runny.

Come to think of it… we probably should have just eaten bacon-tomato sandwiches and given away the can of soup. This wasn’t a disastrous dish, but it was definitely an example of an ingredient in search of a recipe.

Broiled soup sandwich advertisement was originally shared by Amy Em. on Flickr.

Posted by: Erica Retrochef | September 8, 2014

Shrimp Rajah, or Curried Shrimp

We got a wildly good deal on some South Carolina shrimp this week. Since I am (apparently) a crazy person, my first thought was what retro recipe calls for shrimp? Turns out, not too many of them. (I assume shrimp used to be far less commonly available in non-coastal states, which pretty much rules it out of the “popular ingredients for advertisers to use.”)

But French’s came through, trying to convince us that their curry powder is the best way to prepare this seasonal bounty. Or rather, currie powder…

recipe

CURRIED SHRIMP

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup French’s Onion Flakes
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons French’s Currie Powder
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 cups (about) shrimp (cooked)

Melt butter, add onion flakes, and cook until soft. Stir in flour, seasonings. Add stock; cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add milk, lemon juice, shrimp. Heat thoroughly. Yield: 8 servings. (Chicken may be substituted for shrimp.)

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | August 31, 2014

Nut Log

For some reason, I have a harder time making desserts than dinners for my blog. Despite the fact that they’re more popular (with the kids in particular), I don’t generally meal-plan dessert, and so I forget to make it most of the time.

But this Labor Day weekend we had an empty milk carton, and decided to try a sweet treat with it: Nut Log.

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Tired of serving the same old things for parties and snacks? Try a nut log! It’s crispy good and quite different. Get a half-gallon of milk in a plastic-coated Pure-Pak carton. Drink it up. Then open the top at both corners, wash and dry, and the rest is easy.

The ingredients are: 1/4 pound butter or margarine, 1 cup (6-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate morsels, 1 10-ounce package miniature marshmallows, 1 8- or 10-ounce package crisp rice cereal, 2 cups Spanish peanuts, 2 cups chopped pecans, 1 cup raisins, 3 cups popped popcorn.

Melt butter, chocolate and marshmallows together in top of double boiler. Mix remaining ingredients in a very large bowl.

Pour melted chocolate sauce over dry ingredients in bowl and mix thoroughly. Then spoon the mixture into Pure-Park carton — pack tightly — and place in refrigerator.

In about an hour your nut log will be firm and ready to serve. Peel the carton away, slice, and watch it disappear! Makes about 24 servings.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | August 18, 2014

Ribbon Slaw

Fun food safety fact: Mayonnaise isn’t dangerous if left unrefrigerated. Made with pasteurized eggs, vinegar, and lemon juice, it’s not a bacteria-friendly environment. Which means you can safely enjoy this “new idea for coleslaw” brought to you by 1960’s Miracle Whip, even at a sweltering August picnic!

recipe
 

Toss purple cabbage with radish and stuffed green olive slices and Miracle Whip; layer this with green cabbage tossed with cucumber slices, kidney beans, Miracle Whip.

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