Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kit's Pasta and Peas

A surprise discovery that turned out to be an old family favorite! ... For some.

Continuing my adventures in making authentic, historical recipes, we decided to head backwards in time to the Great Depression, partially because Kit Kittredge has officially joined my rapidly expanding collection, but also because I found a neat little cache of recipes that I thought could be fun to try out.

Depression era food is probably just as difficult to sell to people as 40's wartime food, and 70's casseroles that sound like someone effectively dumped the contents of a pantry into a dish and hoped for the best. I know a lot of people make faces when I mention it's something I'm interested in, and I'm pretty sure it would be a hard sell to get certain friends and family members over for similar dishes. That being said, I've been enjoying the results, and I think some of the mystique and terror associated with cooking during these two eras has started to dissipate.

I'm sure some of my taste testers will protest that fact, but what can I say? Maybe I'm learning to overcome my picky eating habits.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Emily's Smothered Sausages

Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory!

I've been promising a post like this for quite a while. Most of my other posts focusing on Emily Bennett have talked about food that - while British and tasty - she might not have been able to eat for the better part of her childhood, and every time I do one, I promise the next one I do... and then promptly chicken out and go with something that looks and sounds far more appetizing.

But today I finally make good on that promise by bringing you a recipe from a cookbook my grandmother purchased at The Imperial War Museum in London featuring war time British recipes! I mentioned in one of my last posts that the IWM is one of my favorite museums and I honestly have to say it's probably the best I've ever been to. Unfortunately, it's undergoing a major renovation right now and is therefore closed until July, so plan your trips to London accordingly!

This probably isn't the tastiest looking thing I've ever made for this blog, but I have to say, it actually wasn't too bad! It's quick, something different, and proof that I probably wouldn't have starved to death while living off what I could throw together with rations.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Samantha's Deviled Eggs

Spoilers: they're labor intensive, but an incredibly pretty, tasty way to make an elegant looking treat to eat!

My sister was home on break from college a week ago, and while she was home, I asked if she'd be interested in taste testing some recipes for the blog, and mentioned that I had been wanting to do deviled eggs. She very enthusiastically supported that idea, and a few days before she had to go home, our schedules finally aligned and I was able to make good on that promise with what were pretty tasty results, if I can get away with saying that.

Deviled eggs have a surprisingly long history. They're a dish I'd never really spent much time pondering the origins of, but in doing my usual poking around for information, I discovered that while they weren't called deviled eggs, a boiled, stuffed egg has been appearing on people's tables at least since the time of Ancient Rome! The Greeks and Romans were some of the first Europeans to domesticate chickens, and apparently they started getting creative with egg preparation not long after they had a steady supply of them. The "deviled" name caught on in the 1700's, and versions of the dish are enjoyed by people around the world. Since they have been and still are so popular for so long, there's nothing necessarily specifically linking them to people of the Victorian Age (or Edwardian, as Samantha was more properly a member of), but I think we can all agree that a dish that takes a lot of time and effort to prepare and looks so elegant that they'd be right at home in that era.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Addy's Coconut Tea Cake & The Liebster Award!

A yummy cake that totally deserves the fame and popularity of any other tea cake!

As you can see by the title, this post is going to be something of a joint one! I've already discussed my fondness for coconut at length, so when I discovered this recipe for Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake from The History Kitchen, my interest was piqued! The History Kitchen is a great blog that produces a ton of exceptional material from the pictures to the incredibly well researched recipes. Someday, I hope my blog can be that successful and polished!

I thought this recipe in particular was interesting because I've never heard of coconut being a tea cake option before, and because I had no idea that Emily Dickinson was such a prolific cook! While it's true that she spent most of her adult life in seclusion, she apparently still baked, cooked and sent out goodies to her neighbors with some frequency, making her a beloved figure even if people didn't know her personally. Because she spent so much of her life isolating herself from others, her poetry didn't become popular until after her death. The first collected edition of her work was published in 1889, and the first largely unedited edition was published in 1955.

Because of this, I spent a long time debating which character should host this post and had the best connection to Dickinson's life, and decided to go with Addy because while she might not have read any of Emily's works until she was an adult, they were still contemporaries (Emily would have been in her thirties when Addy was ten) and this recipe is not far off from a cake Addy might have enjoyed or made herself. It's certainly not a complicated one, and apart from the coconut, the other ingredients are extremely basic and are probably already in your pantry!

Part two of the post (which is actually what I'm going to be starting off with) is a slightly unusual topic for this blog, but there was no way I was going to sit out on the fun! I was awarded by Robinhoo from Audra's Elements of Style with...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nellie's Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

While St. Patrick himself probably wouldn't love how modern people choose to celebrate his feast day - he was kind of a giant stick in the mud, by our standards - my family traditionally tries to get together and do something festive. My grandmother likes to make corned beef and cabbage for my grandfather, and while it might not be an authentically Irish dish, it's the Irish American version of bacon and cabbage, and is thus totally legitimate to eat on St. Patrick's Day, or any day you feel like honoring any Irish immigrants you might have in your family. Don't let the naysayers who half read a Wikipedia article fool you!

One of our favorite traditions is making Irish soda bread, and this year, I got to be the one who made it! I was a little intimidated to be the one in charge of making this family favorite, but I am pleased to report that everything worked out very well.

There's only one character to host a post like this, so I'm very pleased to formally introduce you to...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Rebecca's Hamantaschen

Happy Purim, everyone!

As a kid, I used to love being invited over to my friend Sarah and Allison's houses, especially when a Jewish holiday was coming up. Their moms were both really passionate about making sure their kids didn't feel strange for practicing a different faith from the majority of their classmates, and loved educating their non Jewish friends about different customs and stories that went along with being Jewish. I loved hearing different stories and learning about foods and traditions I'd never experienced before, and really appreciate being given the opportunity to learn so much about a culture different from the one I grew up with.

One of my favorite memories of visiting with Sarah's mom was when she had Sarah and I help her make hamantaschen, a treat traditionally eaten on Purim. Since Purim is today - March 15th - this year, I have been eagerly awaiting sharing this tasty cookie with all of you guys! It's a little time consuming to make, but it is absolutely worth it. They've been some of my favorite kinds of cookies ever since Sarah's mom let me steal some of the dough, something that was strictly forbidden at my house during my childhood!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Josefina's Three Bean Tortilla Soup

Whoever invented tortilla soup was a genius.

I think a lot of people are really intimidated by the idea of making their own soup - I know I sure was! Since it's so easy to just open up a can of soup and let the factory and your stove or microwave do the rest of the work for you, I definitely get how people might think making a soup is more complicated than it actually is. While I hope I've showed you guys that making soup is actually pretty easy, it does usually end up taking a long time to taste good.

This has become more of an issue for me than it had been in the past. Now that I have a full time job, and hopefully will continue to for quite some time, I've got much less time to cook than I did when I was unemployed and sadly poking at job websites trying to find someone to hire me. This means while I still like trying out new, exciting, complicated things, an easy recipe that doesn't take too much time to make is a nice thing to be able to throw together on a day where I'm already tired from work, and it's even better when it turns out to be something very tasty, filling and good for you! This hit all those notes, and was tasty enough that I would definitely make it again, and would highly recommend giving a try yourself if you're ever in the mood for something a little different than microwavable soup.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Samantha's Black and White Cookies

Whatever name you want to call them, these cookies are delicious!

The first time I'd ever heard of Black and White cookies was at my art teacher's house. From fifth grade through high school, I took private art lessons with a local painter and an ever changing constellation of four or so other kids where I learned how to paint and draw like a professional, or as close to one as I was ever going to get without going to art school. It's a hobby I've almost totally abandoned since graduating from high school between just not having time or the place to practice it, and I have to admit, while my dreams of being a concept artist for Disney are long gone, I do miss it a lot sometimes.

I don't remember how it came up, but one day, my teacher told us all about her favorite kind of cookie, which you could only get at a certain bakery in New York. Her husband would always try to pick one or two up for her when he went into the city, and she always looked forward to finally being able to have one after a long dry spell.

I didn't really understand what was so special about what was basically a sugar cookie with frosting on it until I tried one for myself, and I have to admit, I was hooked. It might seem a little silly that having two kinds of frosting on a nice, cakey cookie could really make that much of a difference, but they really are tasty and I always think of my teacher when I see them. When this recipe popped up on my Tumblr dashboard, I knew I had to give it a try for myself!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marie-Grace and Cécile's Traditional King Cake

Spoilers: this was kind of a disaster, but it seemed like a good idea at the time!

Mardi Gras - or some variation thereof - isn't a tradition that's unique to New Orleans, but I think when the holiday comes up, it's the first place people think of. It's another floating holiday, marking the day before Ash Wednesday and thus the official start of Lent, or one of the Christian traditions I've always been really lousy about actually participating in. Since observing Lent traditionally means making some personal sacrifices and changing your diet to something considered simpler and less rich, that means cutting down on things like butter, sugar and basically everything else delicious.

Mardi Gras is a celebration of everything that Lent kind of isn't, and is hugely popular in New Orleans. People go all out with decorations, parades and parties, and pretty much any piece of media featuring the city involves it in some way - even The Princess and the Frog takes place near and on Mardi Gras, and so obviously the two girls from New Orleans couldn't be left out of that party.

I'm sorry to say that this was kind of a culinary disaster, but after the effort I put into making it, I definitely wasn't going to keep my attempt to myself! Let's just say King Cake turned out to be a lot harder to make than it seemed to be.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Julie's Tuna Noodle Casserole

An authentic taste of the 1970's you can enjoy today!

I don't think you can get a dish that's much more 1970's than tuna noodle casserole. Ask anyone on the street to name a dish that was popular in this era, and they'll list it as the first or second thing to come to mind, even if they've never had it before and I honestly didn't know anyone who's ever come out and said they enjoyed eating it.

That all changed when I decided to make it last weekend for friends and family! I was fully anticipating everyone to treat this particular culinary experiment with a good deal of trepidation, but discovered that not only does my grandfather really like tuna noodle casserole, but one of our family friends really liked it growing up, and was very excited to try this out. He was doubly excited because his niece has recently gotten into American Girl, and after much deliberation decided on Julie as her first doll!