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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Peanut Butter Fudge, full of magical goodness! 
I am lucky enough to have one of those people in my family who has 'THE' fudge recipe. You know who I mean, the relative who every time there is a family get together everyone just knows she will bring the fudge (at least she better or she might have an uprising on her hands.).
I am now the proud owner of this very recipe, a recipe I always assumed was under lock and key stored away in a vault somewhere, only allowed to come out at Christmastime and the occasional reunion.
When my aunt sent me the recipe she wrote me about where it came from and this dear reader is the crux of why I adore retro cooking. There is always a story behind a recipe, a little pinch of time and history mixed in with family and loved ones that offers a bit of insight into a time so easily forgotten. Also, in these recipes you will find instructions that you may not be familiar with now, but which the modern 'retro' woman would have been very familiar with. For instance, this fudge recipe instructs that the mixture reach the 'soft ball stage', a common term used in candy making but not often found in the everyday cooks repertoire these days. How easily and quietly these little things slip away from one generation to the next.
This fudge recipe came from somewhere of course and while the recipe would taste just as good if it came out of a magazine she read while at the doctors office, I was happy to hear that it came from some place much closer to me. This particular peanut butter fudge recipe came from a cookbook that was being sold by my older brother through our high school. This was a fund raiser cookbook and consisted of local recipes by family members of our school. While not a mysterious source, still an interesting nugget of information and I was glad to have it and glad to have the recipe! Included below is the original recipe as my aunt copied it that day she was sitting at our kitchen table and visiting us.
This is how we stay connected, this is how we remember home. Now I live over a 1000 miles away from where I grew up, but I have this recipe that takes me right back to my small hometown and our family get together's. 
So I encourage you to make this fudge, maybe you will become the person in your family who is known for that special treat that everyone adores and maybe, just maybe, it will be passed on to another generation after you.

Peanut Butter Fudge
3 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of evaporated milk
1 stick of butter
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

In medium sized saucepan mix sugar, evaporated milk, and butter on medium high heat.
While this is melting, butter an 8x8 dish.

Cook mixture on medium to high heat, it will come to a boil and will need to reach the 'soft ball stage', this means the temperature is either between 235-240 degrees OR you can drop a small amount of mixture into a glass of cold water and if it forms a soft ball with your fingers, it is done. ( I chose to use a thermometer and removed it from the heat when it reached 235 degrees.)
While it boils and comes to soft ball stage, stir often, it will start to foam a little. This takes approximately 5-7 minutes.

Immediately remove from heat and add in peanut butter and vanilla, stir until peanut butter is completely incorporated and mixture is smooth. It may seem too thin to you, but it will set up.

Pour into prepared dish and cool at room temperature, uncovered.

Once cooled, cut into small squares and store in airtight container with wax or parchment paper between layers.

I warn you now, from very recent experience... 1-2 pieces at a time is PLENTY!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cookie Press Cookies, Wow Retro're awesome!

I have to hand it to you retro woman, you have talent! You probably pressed these cookies out with one hand, vacuumed with the other and all while wearing heels and watching General Hospital.
I have never attempted making cookies with a cookie press, if the dough can't be plunked down on the cookie sheet with a spoon then I probably won't be making them. However, eternally hungry husband and eternally emotional teen went to yard sales this weekend and since they are eternally supportive of my cooking, they bought me a 'Mirro Cookie and Pastry Press'. We can't find a date on the box anywhere but I'm guessing it is from the 50's.
The box contains 13 of 15 cookie designs and appears to be unused.

Essentially you just choose a recipe from the recipe book (provided), fill the press with your dough, choose a design, press, bake, and enjoy.

You can make cookies, eclairs, meringue shells, and cream puffs. The recipe book contains several flavors of cookie dough, pastry dough, fillings, and frosting. We chose the snow flake recipe and three press designs, a heart, butterfly, and pinwheel.

Snow Flakes
1 cup of shortening (we used Crisco)
3 oz. of cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
1 egg yolk (at room temperature, when baking ingredients should always be at room temp.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 1/2 cups SIFTED all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cook on 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

What you will need:

1. Cream shortening and cheese well.
2. Add sugar and continue to cream
3. Sift flour with salt and cinnamon and add into creamed mixture. Mix well.

Your dough will pull away from sides of mixing bowl, be slightly firm and might even seem dry.

Fill cookie press with dough, make sure to pack it in tightly to avoid air pockets which will inhibit the dough from coming out properly.

Fill completely, pat down tightly, and screw end onto press.

This next step is where the retro woman really gets credit! The directions say to place the press down onto cookie sheet, twist knob of press to extrude dough, then twist back a half turn to release the cookie onto the sheet. Sounds simple right?! I assure you it was not. We had blob after blob after blob, hungry husband and I both taking turns and trying techniques to release the dough. My thought is that the pinwheel design just doesn't work well (it couldn't possibly have been my lack of skill and practice)!
But would the retro woman waste perfectly good cookie dough? I think not! So no matter that the first batch of cookies had a face only a mother could love, I sprinkled them with colored sugar (in hopes it would approve their appearance) and popped them into the oven. 
While they cooked I tried my hand at butterflies and hearts...both of which turned out much better and proved to be easier than the pinwheel design.

The Verdict
The cookie recipe is very easy to follow, has few ingredients, and comes together well. The cookie press was a bit frustrating at first but became easier with practice. The flavor, WONDERFUL. This is a solid cookie recipe, delicate, crisp, and delicious. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

1972- A housewife's list of dinner ideas

I found this hilarious and endearing and I hope you do too. Below is a list my aunt Cindy made in 1972 of all of her dinner ideas that she could cook for her family. We are now in a day and age when dinner is a run through the fast good joint or something poured out of a box, with very little thought or care behind it. It is refreshing to be reminded that just 40 years ago a little more thought went into the family meal. You see, it's not about WHAT you cook, it is about the thought behind it. She took the time to sit down and think it through because she was doing more than just providing food to her family, she was providing a place to feel comfortable and at home, a place to leave the world behind and be with the people you care most about. This is the very essence of the family table, this has been how bonds have been created for eons.
Take a look at #30, Tahitian Spam dinner, I'm gonna bet it includes pineapple...Cindy if you can remember what went into that, please add it below in the comments. (I'm hoping you don't make this anymore..haha)
Thanks for holding onto these momentos that define what the true essence of family tradition is made of.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Stuffed Green Peppers and Peas with Scallions in a cream sauce

Stuffed Green Peppers
4 even sized green peppers
1 small onion finely chopped
2/3 cup of mushrooms finely chopped
2 slices of bacon finely chopped (pre-cooked or raw)
2 Tbls. of butter
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 Tbls. chopped parsley
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
1 can tomato sauce

Let me warn you, these days we are growing some monster size peppers...I had to double the filling recipe to fill my 4 moderately sized peppers. Recipe given above is NOT doubled.

Cut off top of peppers, clean out seeds, place in bowl or pan of boiled water to soften for 5 minutes and remove to baking dish.

In skillet melt butter and saute chopped onion, bacon, and mushrooms for approx. 5 minutes and add in cooked rice, egg, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. 
Fill each pepper with mixture, top with 1/2 of parmesan cheese, and  pour 1/2 a cup of hot tap water into bottom of baking dish.

Place in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. 
Remove from oven, top with remainder of cheese and warmed tomato sauce.

Peas and Scallions in a cream sauce
1 lb. frozen peas
5 scallions, cleaned, roots trimmed, and including all of white bulb and 1 inch of green
1 cup chicken broth
Beurre manie (this is a thickening agent, 2 Tbls. of soft butter mashed with 4 Tbls. of flour into a paste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth to a simmer, add in chopped scallions and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften.

Add in peas and crumble Beurre manie over top and stir in.

Sauce will form quickly and thicken, add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.


Our Review: I live with an eternally hungry husband and an eternally emotional teenager, our reviews will be brutally honest and hopefully helpful. 
With the peppers I was surprised that I had to double the recipe and still the filling was a little shy of filling up the pepper, other than that, it was relatively easy and fast to prepare and cooked as expected. We all agreed that the pepper taste was a bit overwhelming compared to the mild filling and the tomato sauce was a bit bland, I suggest a good tomato sauce that you are already familiar with and like.
The peas and scallions were very good, the flavors work well together and I just love anything with a cream sauce. Extremely easy to prepare and make, I was not familiar with using Buerre manie for thickening but the cookbook this recipe came from included directions on making it and it was easy and worked great.
This is a nice change up on just plain old peas which I usually cook.

The Souffle that wasn't meant to be.

What better way to start a retro food blog than to start with the pinnacle of ambition in the kitchen....the souffle.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I am certainly no accomplished chef by any means but I was feeling ambitious today and thought it would be appropriate to start this blog with what I have always considered the epitome of the retro woman.
I had visions of myself pulling a steaming and perfectly puffed cheese souffle from the oven, sashaying over to the dinner table, hair coiffed and looking as if cooking this behemoth was a breeze....all to the ooohhh's and aahhh's of my admiring family.
I pulled out the vintage Reader's Digest, Creative Cooking, cookbook and researched the many techniques and recipes; cheese, corn, ham, and much to my surprise, chocolate. I quickly settled on cheese and set about making my grocery list, first on the list: a souffle dish. Little did I know that I would never make it past the first item on my list. Who knew that a souffle dish would be so difficult to find. I mean, when I say souffle dish don't all of you automatically picture a white ceramic dish, straight fluted sides? Never mind that you just don't see a souffle being made much anymore, we all still know what the dish looks like and have probably owned one at one time or another in our life. One kitchen store, one grocery store, two department stores, one yard sale, and three thrift shops later and still NO souffle dish. I could probably walk down my street and find one in every other house, shoved away in some back cabinet and forgotten about.
This was a good first lesson on retro cooking though, times have changed and so has how we cook and probably this won't be the only time I have difficulty locating a particular item for a retro recipe. That's okay though because I will substitute when I must and have fun searching out items in the mean time.

Welcome to "Cook Retro"

Hi fellow foodies and welcome to 'Cook Retro' where I will explore food/recipe traditions and fads. I'll be cooking and posting retro recipes and pictures, sharing vintage cookbooks, discussing traditions and fads, and hopefully generating lively discussions about the history of food in our lives.
Food represents an integral part of human livelihoods, identity, and culture. The practical dimensions and ramifications of food production, eating and sharing, and the symbolic meaning behind the family table all play an integral part in our lives.
So go find your grandma's cookbook and get into the kitchen!