Posted by: Erica Retrochef | April 11, 2016

Macaroni Casserole


There are some times when making a retro recipe gets to be a little tiresome. Not the food, actually, but the writeup.

Cream of something soup. Tuna fish. Pimiento. Processed cheese. Recombined in dozens of ways, by different food companies… with oddly similar results each time.

But then I realized I have learned quite a lot over the years of doing this. And since I got into this project to be a better cook, I was quite proud to consider all those lessons and how they’ve benefitted me.


2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 10-1/2-oz. can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. chopped onion
1 tbsp. chopped pimiento
2 tbsps. chopped green pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 lb. processed sharp cheese (grated or cubed)
1 No. 1/2 can Star-Kist Tuna

Cook macaroni according to directions on package. Set aside. Combine soup, milk, chopped onion, pimiento, green pepper and black pepper. Place over low heat, add grated cheese and stir occasionally, until cheese is melted. Mix macaroni and Star-Kist Tuna in 1-1/2-qt. casserole. Blend in cheese sauce. Bake in moderate oven (325 F.) about 20-min. Serves 6.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | April 4, 2016

Chicken Pilau

Since these political recipes were Buzz’s idea, it always his responsibility to find one each month. This time around, he decided to approach it by thinking, “What famous politicians probably really liked to eat?” Taft was too easy, so he settled on Warren Harding, a president well known now as a man of strong appetites.

So he searched the Web for recipes associated with President Harding, and he found a digitzed gem—The Stag Cook Book from 1922, “written for men by men.” And it is really quite an impressive collection, with recipe submitted by politicians, judges, entertainers, intellectuals, writers, and diplomats. Poets, short story writers, and illustrators provided recipes in their respective genres. William Jennings Bryan apparently really liked onion rings, and Harold Lloyd likes cakes with lemon filling. Warren Harding’s recipe is for waffles, one of two waffle recipes in the book. (Harding recommends topping his waffles with a cream gravy made from chipped beef.)

However, Harding’s recipe is not the first one from the book that we eventually decided to make. Instead, we chose the Chicken Pilau contributed by a member of Harding’s cabinet, Will Hays, the postmaster general. Prior to the election of 1920, Hays had headed the Republican National Committee and managed Harding’s presidential campaign. As postmaster general, he oversaw the postal service at a time when it was significantly expanding its volume and parcel shipping options. Yet Hays left the position after less than a year, to take the job that made his name famous: censoring the film industry.

By the time The Stag Cook Book came out, Hays had taken over as the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. He gave his named to the Hays Code, which ended all nudity, suggestive dances, ridicule of religion, venereal disease, and sympathetic adultery (among many other things) in mainstream American film for decades. In Hays’ memory, the remainder of this post will be written in accordance with the United States Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, and so will contain no kisses lasting more than three seconds.

It will, however, contain a lot of chicken and rice.



“Get a fat hen — the fatter the better.”

Because this recipe comes from a Southern cook, there are no accurate measurements.

Sam would always recommend a “fat hen” — “the fatter the better,” and “‘nough rice and plenty of pepper.”

This I know: The chicken is cut up and boiled in the water until tender. Should be cooked in a good sized flat bottom kettle. When then chicken is tender there should be enough of the stock to come up well around it, but not to cover it. Then put in with the chicken about a scant pint of well washed rice. This should be stirred ONCE, Sam says, and allowed to steam slowly an hour. Use plenty of pepper to season and salt to taste. Each grain of rice should be fat and juicy. Successfully made it is delicious.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | March 7, 2016

Cheese Wafers

Buzz announced that the next political recipe he had found was going to be “Rice Crispy treats, but with cheese instead of marshmallows.” It turns out that the dish had come from the kitchen of that icon of Southern cooking, Lady Bird Johnson.


Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Recipe for…


1 cup margarine or soft butter
2 cups flour
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups rice krispies cereal

Cut butter into flour, add cheese and seasonings, fold in cereal. Drop by small rounds on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with a spoon.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, depending on oven (careful not to get too brown). Yields approximately 5 dozen wafers.

Cheese wafers are a “ranch staple” which are served on all occasions: with salads, with cocktails, etc., or just when one of the grandchildren gets the “munchies!”

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | February 15, 2016

Date Pudding

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and so I asked my spouse of many years if he’d like some dates. He got a smile on his face, but then a slightly suspicious look.

“Is this a date or some retro recipe idea?”

“Ummm… Can it be both?”



1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/6 cup molasses
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter (melted)
1/2 lb. ARABIAN STEED Dates, cut
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon boiling water

Mix dry ingredients and add Dates. Then add milk, molasses and melted butter. Dissolve soda in boiling water and add to mixture.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | February 8, 2016

Cottage-Borscht Cracker Dip

Time for our annual Super Bowl retro appetizer! This year it’s a cheesy dip for whatever crackers you happen to have on hand — with a special pink addition…


1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 tablespoon crumbled Blue cheese
1/2 cup shredded beets
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a mixer or blender beat cottage cheese and Blue cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | February 1, 2016

Rice Pudding Melah

Why did we decide to do a special post each month about a politician? I already can’t remember. But for February, we’re doing a really simple dessert that was nonetheless presidential.

Ulysses Grant is really better remembered for his military career than his presidency, which was notorious for corruption scandals. He was, however, a politician, and a really popular one at that. He served two terms as president. He wrote his personal memoirs (while dying of throat cancer), and its sales would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his heirs. In 1900, his tomb was the most popular tourist attraction in New York; it had tens of thousands of visitors, many of them Civil War veterans.

I’ve always found him sort of a poignant figure, out of his depth in politics, and so I was interested to read that his favorite dessert was plain and simple: rice pudding. But this isn’t just “rice pudding” — it’s “Rice Pudding Melah”, after White House steward Valentino Melah, who apparently was obliged to serve it as often as possible (even at state dinners!)

No dessert at Delmonico’s, no matter how special, ever pleased President Grant as much as simple rice pudding. The Grants’ Italian steward Melah regarded this homey concoction as a challenge to his ingenuity and tried to vary it from time to time. No matter how he embellished it, Grant liked it and had it as often as possible when the family dined alone. When the inventive Melah experimented with rice pudding, however, it was good enough to be served at official functions–and actually was.

Measure 3/4 cup long-grain rice into a saucepan. Add 1 1/2 quarts milk and simmer very slowly until the rice is soft. Add 3 tablespoons butter, remove from heat, and cool. Meanwhile, beat 5 eggs well and stir them into the rice mixture. Add 1/2 cup sugar and mix carefully. Pour the mixture into a large greased baking pan and add 1/2 cup slivered almonds, mixing them gently into the pan. Bake in a medium-warm (325 degrees F.) oven until the custard sets. Remove from the oven, sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg over the top and serve. Delicious either warm with cream or chilled. Serves 8.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 25, 2016

Tuna Tarts

Our oldest daughter went on an overnight school trip and came back full of excitement about the chicken pot pie they’d served for dinner. “It was amazing!” I’ve made a handful of pot pies for her since then (vegetable-based, since she is keen on being as vegetarian as possible) with equally enthusiastic reception, and so I now feel safe enough to branch out into slightly weirder recipes for pie filling. Such as this one from the mid-60’s…


Tuna Tarts: Prepare enough pastry for double crust 9-in. pie. Cut tops and bottoms to fit four 5 or 6-in. tart pans. Combine 10 1/2-oz. can cream of mushroom soup, 7-oz. can drained and flaked tuna, 1/4 c. sliced ripe olives, 2 tbsps. chopped sweet pickles, tbsp. each Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. curry powder. Spoon into pastry-lined pans. Top with pastry and seal. Cut vents in top. Bake 20 to 30 minutes at 450.

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 18, 2016

Tuna-Egg Casserole

There are many things that I might think of as reasonable partners with tuna fish.


Mayonnaise, pickle relish, celery, mustard — any of those I could see (if not necessarily enjoy personally) as a pairing with tuna. Eggs, though, are not normally high on that list.

1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp. paprika
1 10-1/2 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 No. 1/2 can Star-Kist Tuna
2 tsps. grated lemon peel
4 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup grated American cheese

Simmer celery in water until softened. Add half of mushroom soup and blend. Combine tuna, lemon peel and remainder of soup. In greased 1-qt. casserole, arrange layers of tuna, chopped egg whites, crumbled yolks, and celery and soup mixture. Add salt and pepper. Top with cheese and paprika. Bake in hot oven (450° F.) 15 min. or until bubbly and brown. Serves 5.

“Is that a chicken dancing with a tuna?”

“Yeah. I think it’s sort of like when you’re advertising a barbecue restaurant with a cheerful pig in a butcher’s apron. Animals cheerfully serving you other animals.”

“I guess the tuna’s just too stupid to understand what’s really happening. The chicken, though… That’s just creepy somehow.”

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 11, 2016

Fruit Cocktail Crackle

This week, I’m turning crackers into cake!


And for more fun, we’re using fruit cocktail with character. Doesn’t that sound like the dessert equivalent of nice personality? “My, Nancy, this fruit concoction has lots of character.”


1 No. 2-1/2 can DEL MONTE Fruit Cocktail
1 pkg. lemon pudding and pie filling mix
2 eggs + 1/4 cup sugar for meringue
3/4 cup coarse soda cracker crumbs
1/2 cup brown sugar, well-packed
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
3/4 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Drain fruit cocktail; chill. Make pudding according to directions on box; fold in meringue made from egg whites and sugar. Add 1/2 cup of the drained fruit. Cool.

Mix crumbs and brown sugar; add melted butter. Sift flour with soda; combine with coconut, mix well with cracker mixture. Put 3/4 this mixture in well-greased round 9 x 1-1/2-inch baking dish or cake pan. Pour lemon filling on top; sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake in moderate oven (350°F.) 25 min. or till golden brown. Cool; chill. Serve topped with rest of the fruit cocktail. Serves 6.

Apparently, pudding is equivalent of character. Or maybe it’s the crackers?

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Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 4, 2016

Snapper with Sesame Seed Stuffing

2015 was a busy, busy year. With the kids getting older and more responsibilities at work, I had less time to cook and blog. We had enough of a backlog of pre-written posts and could limp along, but it was a challenge. I’m not as pleased with last year’s productivity as I expected to be last January.

This year, we’re looking forward to a full 52 weeks of retro recipe wackiness. And we’re going to start off with a hilarious serving chosen by Buzz. He texted me at work to say he’d found a good recipe, but wouldn’t say what it was.

This recipe will also be the first in a monthly series for election year 2016. Each month, we will feature a recipe related to a politician. This month, the connection is admittedly a bit tenuous, because we didn’t come up with the idea until after this recipe was cooked and eaten.


Baked red snapper with sesame seed stuffing: Toast 2 tbsps. sesame seed in 3 tbsps. butter. Combine 3 cs. toasted bread cubes, 1/4 c. chopped celery, tbsp. chopped parsley, 1/4 tsp. salt, dash pepper. Moisten with 2 tbsps. white wine. Stuff 5-lb. whole red snapper. Bake 35 min. at 350°.

The recipe comes from 1967 Ebony magazine. The cover story was about Adam Clayton Powell — the controversial congressman well known for his love of Caribbean vacations. Right after the article about Powell and his boat came a few pages of tips and recipes for how to prepare more exotic varieties of seafood.

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