Monday, September 24, 2012

Thrifty Acres - Vintage Cookie Tin - And A Recipe For Flling It

Hello! I'm well aware that there are plenty of cookie tins out there that have been made to look old. I've picked up my share of such items in a thrift store, thinking a tin was vintage, only to turn it over to see the dreaded "Made In China" sticker, or the label left over from a commercial bakery, affixed to the bottom.  Disappointing! 

However, I spotted this the other day at a local Goodwill, priced at
 one dollar.
I inspected it carefully for any signs of it being a newer tin made to look old and couldn't find any. And it certainly showed signs of being well-used, which led me to believe that it is, indeed, vintage and not a reproduction - the red finish is worn through in spots on the top edge of the tin, undoubtedly from countless times the lid had been pulled off, then put back on. I fondly imagined it as a well-used tin in some grandmother's home. Who knows how many times it had been filled, and how many varieties of cookies had been stored inside over the years?

I don't know how old the tin actually is, but the design looks old so I'm happy with that. It's good-sized, too - measures 10" in diameter and is 3 1/2" tall. 

The purchase of this new-to-me cookie tin inspired me to make the following recipe:

The Flintoffs' Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream together:

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar


2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together:

2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Add these dry ingredients to butter/sugar/egg mixture. 

Mix in:

12 ounces chocolate chips
4 ounces chopped candy (recipe specified a Hershey bar)
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 - length of time depends on how big you make the cookies. I use a vintage ice cream scoop that equals two tablespoons of cookie dough, so a baking time of about 12 minutes yielded these cookies:

A recipe like this can be made with various substitutions, like using other chip flavors and various candies instead of the Hershey bar. I had some Hershey's Special Dark miniature Easter eggs, bought on clearance after that holiday was over, so I chopped them up to use in this recipe. Come Halloween, any similar leftover candies could be used as well. The addition of candy bar-type chocolates makes these cookies extra good! 

My husband doesn't like nuts in baked goods, so I left them out and added 1 cup of coconut instead. 

I used white wheat flour in place of regular white flour - this swap, along the oatmeal, makes these more nutritious than the typical chocolate chip cookie. Thus, we can eat these with a clear conscience, right? 

Well, not quite - but they're still really good! 

I would like to thank the Flintoffs for the recipe, but I don't know who they are! I clipped the recipe from a church cookbook I'd gotten from a thrift store, but the recipe submitter had shed no light on the Flintoffs or their cookies.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eats - Spicy Chocolate Bark

Hello! Some years back - don't recall when - I began seeing mention of chocolates flavored with hot peppers. I think I might have first noticed this pairing in gourmet chocolate truffles, but eventually it spread to fancy candy bars as well. But although I like both chocolate and spicy foods, I had never tried the two together until our summer vacation last month, during which time we went HERE . I greatly enjoyed one of the ice cream shop's signature flavors, Queen City Cayenne.

A couple of nights ago, I went through my file of candy recipe clippings in order to choose a goodie to make for our daughter's school lunch, and while doing so, I came across a clipping for Spicy Chocolate Bark. I'm not sure where the recipe came from, perhaps Taste of Home magazine. I made a different candy recipe for our daughter (a white chocolate/pretzel/cereal concoction), but decided to try this recipe for myself today. 

Result? Super easy - and seriously addictive. If you like the taste of chocolate and hot pepper together - or think you might - be warned! 

Here's the recipe, and as I rarely follow a recipe exactly, I'll add my notes afterward.

Spicy Chocolate Bark

1 pound milk chocolate candy coating, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating. Stir in the nuts and cayenne pepper. Spread onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Break into small pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: about 1 1/2 pounds. 

Notes: I used a 12 oz bag of milk chocolate chips, and since I didn't have cashews on hand, I used all pecans. As I was starting with a smaller amount of chocolate, I used 3/4 cup of the pecans. This was fine, but I think I could have used a full cup of nuts and that would have been okay too. 

Again, since I was using less chocolate than what the recipe had specified, I used a bit less cayenne pepper. The spiciness level was fine, but I could have added a full half teaspoon for my 12 oz of chocolate and probably would have liked it even more!

I didn't have room in my refrigerator for the cookie sheet, so instead I popped it into the freezer for about 15 minutes. 

I am sure various substitutions can be made - dark chocolate instead of milk, any variety of nut one chooses, leave the nuts out, or add another "crunchy" ingredient like Rice Krispies. Different varieties of powdered chilies could be used as well, depending on one's tolerance for spiciness. I once dried some habaneros, then ground them into a powder to use in cooking. Too bad I don't have any of it left; I'd try it in this candy.

The recipe must have appeared in a Christmastime publication, for the paragraph preceding the recipes states: "Folks who like spicy foods just may put it at the top of their holiday wish lists!" Having already eaten more tonight than I should have, I would have to agree!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Get Carded: A Yummy Birthday To You!

Hello! Am mailing off a food gift to a niece for her birthday, and although I hadn't planned it, her birthday card has a food-themed design:

Materials used: white card stock, altered vintage restaurant menu, scrap of hand-painted paper (not done by me) cut from birthday cake stencil, scrapbook paper scrap "frosting" and yellow art paper scrap "flame" (frosting and flame cut freehand) and "Happy Birthday" stamped on white card stock scrap with black StazOn ink; scrap was edged in red StazOn ink. 

About that vintage restaurant menu: several years ago I bought a handful of them at a garage sale run by an antique dealer. I promptly altered the heck out of a few of them; really gave them the works: painted over them, then added random stamping and the random gluing-on of various bits of ephemera (vintage postcards, art paper scraps, punched shapes, etc). Yes, it took awhile to complete, but this sort of project doesn't have to be done all at once, and I don't believe that I did so. After the painted menus were dried, I added elements here and there until I liked the finished look. 

A little of this sort of "paper" goes a long way - besides being used as a background piece on the card above, it's also effective cut into shapes and used as decorative elements that way.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

No Stone Left Unturned: The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook (1959)

Hello! I'm a sucker for vintage cookbooks, especially those from the 1950's, so when I spied the 1959-issued The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook at a thrift store recently, I had to snap it up. It also helped that cookbooks were 1/2 off that week, which meant that I spent a whopping one dollar for a volume of over 400 pages. 

Here's what the cookbook looks like, in case you ever want to get one of your own:

Initially, I was charmed by the line drawings therein, which have that 50's  verve:

However, I soon noticed that the writers of this cookbook had left no stone unturned - it appears that virtually any wrinkle in one's meal plans was addressed, along with a dizzying array of social occasions, international menus, regional meals within the US, and more. And all was done in a friendly, breezy tone that was obviously meant to reassure the cook - usually a woman (unless the Man of the House is barbequing or his wife is ill) - that she, and her meals, would be ready for anything.

There are menu solutions offered for the everyday family meals, which address such issues as the one illustrated above, as well as ones like "Sue's always late on Wednesdays", "When Dad comes home for lunch" and "Stragglers for breakfast". 

But where the cookbook really gets fun, IMO, is when social occasions are discussed. Thus, there's a menu for "Come back with us after the sleigh ride", "Come watch the big TV show tonight" and "Back from bowling". None of the food is shabby either - the cookbook has oyster stew for the post-sleigh ride meal, ham rolls with cottage cheese in sour cream sauce for the TV watchers, and potato and salami casserole for the bowlers. There are, of course, side dishes and rich desserts as well. The food definitely seems fancier than what would be served for similar occasions in today's world. I'm thinking that chili for the post-sleigh ride meal and take-out pizza for the TV watchers and the bowlers would be more the norm today!

Moving on, since I'm from the Midwest, I read with interest the narrative for the "Midwest pitch-in party" - what I've always heard called a potluck - with square dancing after the meal. Actually, the cookbook makes other references to square dance parties, so obviously it was a popular dance form back then.

And here's what the "Midwest pitch-in party" meal looked like:

It featured pork roast with dressing, various salads, two kinds of cake, one kind of pie, fudge and beverages. The staged photo made me nostalgic for the Blue and Gold banquets (a Boy Scout event) I used to attend (courtesy of my brother's involvement in scouting) in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Those were potluck affairs as well, and my head used to spin at the variety of cakes and cookies on display (the casseroles, baked beans, and potato salads weren't too bad either). In fact, one year I ate so much cake that I woke up later on that night with a stomachache - yes, I had been too gluttinous! 

Anyway, back to the cookbook - continuing on with the parties and other social events, there are menus for "daytime entertaining", "it's a party", "home for the holidays" "the meals outdoors" and more. 

Too bad I didn't have this cookbook a couple of years ago, when our daughter turned 15. I could have served her and her friends a special meal just for her 15th birthday: Creole chicken and rice, a four-vegetable relish tray, hot buttered rolls, coconut cake, milk and coffee. "...a quite elegant little supper" the cookbook proclaims, and indeed it is. But I certainly wouldn't have served Creole chicken and rice to our daughter and her friends! One look at that stuff and they would have asked to be taken to Wendy's.

"Strictly for the boys" presents a "big, manly soup and sandwiches" - with one sandwich filling suggestion being tongue. I wonder how many people still eat tongue? My dad used to, occasionally, when I was a kid. Again, if my husband would have had a group of men over and served them tongue sandwiches, they would have suddenly remembered that they were needed at home!

Holidays - of course, they're still important social occasions, so "let's have the carolers in", "stop off after the Christmas pageant", and "Come help us trim our tree" are still good reasons for get-togethers - especially if one just happens to have multiple selections of beverages, snacks, cookies and other goodies prepared in advance! 

But if you didn't do as much entertaining as you would have liked in the days leading up to Christmas, there's always the "We're having open house on New Year's". The cookbook explains that "with proper preparation, it can be the most carefree of occasions for the hostess - and one of the most delightful for her guests". Sounds great - until one turns the page and sees that this "carefree occasion" has a menu of nine items and is supposed to serve 24 people. Not sure what's carefree about that!

As I write, it's the so-called last weekend of summer, and as I live near Lake Michigan - and have a friend who follows my blog and has a sailboat - I'll  mention the boating menus. They are entitled "Party on board", "Early breakfast at the mooring", "lunch en route", the very pleasant-sounding "Harbor-lights dinner" (featuring fresh-caught fish) - and this menu:

And this is what the above menu is supposed to look like:

My own family often takes long driving vacations during the summer, so the section called "Meals While Motoring" should suit us, right? The cookbook's suggestion of saving money by taking "meal-makings along" is still a good one. 

Alas, we have fallen far from this concept, since we've yet to plan for the "First day out" by making deviled ham and chopped pickle on thin rye bread or coconut carrot salad to eat at a meal stop. 

And we've really erred by never treating ourselves to "The roadside gourmet" meal - complete with green turtle soup on the rocks, half avocado filled with pickled shrimp, salt sticks, assorted cheese crackers, fresh or brandied peaches and coffee. These delectables were to be purchased from "specialty counters in most markets", the cookbook informs us. So much for saving money on meals while traveling!(And my market is clearly failing, since I've never seen green turtle soup sold to go there - nor brandied peaches, for that matter!)

Oh, there's so much more I could talk about with this cookbook and its no-stone-left-unturned approach. It really was a hoot to read, so if you like this sort of thing, I urge you to get your own copy!