Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Consider this your early Halloween present. These cupcakes are a white cake called Snow Cake and they are topped with orange icing (orange flavor, not just color). The Snow Cake recipe is very light and airy thanks to whipped egg whites, and would do really well layered with raspberry preserves and fluffy white icing, or maybe a milk chocolate frosting.

The icing is very simple and has a more subtle orange flavor than I wanted, but is still very good. Now look away Mom, because I am going to let you in on a little secret about this icing...it has egg white in it. Ack! If you are willing to risk salmonella you will find it sets up quite nicely.

I had big plans for this little cupcake. It was supposed to be topped with candied orange dipped in chocolate for a grown up Halloween look. We have dozens of mandarin oranges on our counter but there they will sit as school work interfered with my plans. Priorities, people. So these cupcakes just got a little sprinkle of black sugar and I called it a day.

Snow Cake
Adapted from the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1948.

3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add 1/2 the sugar and set aside. Cream butter and add remaining sugar gradually, beating constantly. Mix and sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk. Add vanilla. Fold in egg whites. For cupcakes, bake about 30 minutes.

Orange Frosting
Grated rind 1 orange
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs orange juice
1 egg white
confectioner's sugar

Add rind to fruit juice and let stand 15 minutes. Strain. Add gradually to egg yolk while beating it. Stir in sugar until right consistency to spread. Beat until very smooth.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yuppies Playing Farm

Our CSA had a harvest festival last weekend. The weather was perfect, we listened to live bluegrass, played soccer and frisbee, watched kids and dogs run around, shared a potluck lunch, learned more about the farm, talked biodiesel, walked through fields, bid on auction items and, as always, went home with a gorgeous array of fresh vegetables. We couldn't have asked for a better day.

There is part of me that feels a little fake, like we're yuppies playing farm and it's nice and fun and we feel good but there aren't any benefits to hanging out for on the farm for the day. But there is. We get to know the people growing the vegetables and learn about their other efforts to minimize their environmental impact. We meet like-minded people and here about other ways to eat locally and organically. We walk around the fields and become more connected and concerned about the drought and encroaching McMansion subdivisions leading to more and more deer and other animals being pushed onto the farm (this year it meant no sweet potatoes and no pumpkins and other failed or diminished crops).

Before joining the farm, I wasn't nearly as aware of fluctuating food prices based on weather and other conditions, except for the occasional note posted at a grocery store about early frost ruining orange groves in Florida or something like that. It also means from May to November most of our vegetables, a large part of our diet, aren't trucked in from across the country or flown in from halfway around the world which saves energy. It also means we get the freshest produce possible and it doesn't have to be grown from genetically altered seeds so the vegetables can withstand longer times between picking and eating, or that they have to be picked unripe and treated with chemicals, or anything else unnatural.

If you're interested in joining a CSA or buying more local food, you can find out more about it here. I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Christmas in a Bowl

Now normally I'm not one to rush into Christmas and I cringe when I walk into stores and see Christmas stuff now. But, come on, it can't hurt to be reminded of sitting around on cold nights stringing popcorn and cranberries for the tree, can it? I remember my parents popping loads of popcorn and leaving it in brown paper bags to go stale so they could string it. My husband and I did this for a couple years and hung it out for the birds after Christmas was over, but, dang, it was a lot of work.

You may not be able to find this recipe in any classic cook book but what's more classic than popcorn? Ok, maybe popcorn with dried cranberries, covered with soymilk and eaten for breakfast isn't something grandma ate but stick with me for a minute. This is good stuff. Alton Brown said you can eat popcorn with milk and that's good enough for me. (I can't find a link to this recommendation but I'm sure I saw on it one of this shows. I wouldn't lie to you.)

Now don't go using microwave popcorn from one of those illness causing bags. Stick to an air popper or a pot on the stove or a brown paper bag or, my favorite, a microwave popcorn bowl. I made it without oil or butter or salt, but I think fat and salt wouldn't hurt this breakfast. Pour a handful into a bowl, top with a few dried cranberries, and pour on soymilk or milk or whatever you like on your cereal. Yum.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Talk to Me

If you've been here before you've read my blabbering about this recipe or that cookbook, but I'm wondering what you think about all of this classic cookery stuff. Do you have a favorite classic recipe or cookbook? Are you not inclined to cook but would like me to try a recipe? Or do you just want to chat about food you remember eating at your grandparents house?

I've gotten all fancy-like and set up a new e-mail account just for this site so drop me a line sometime: classiccook@gmail.com. It's easier than using a party line!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not Quite Healthy

If you're looking for a classic, quick, no-bake sweet to make, here it is. This one has a slight advantage over some other sweets in that you can make it with different cereals; depending on the cereal you choose, you may be able to boost your vitamin and fiber intake a bit. Still, this is a sweet through and through so you may just want to keep it simple and stick to the original recipe which calls for cornflakes.

Cornflake Chewies

Adapted from Festive Foods, a Wisconsin Gas Company cookbooklet promoting gas ranges published in 1971. You can see from the picture that I made one major change: I used Trader Joe's High Fiber O's cereal in place of cornflakes. This was less a decision about nutrition and more about using up cereal that was sitting in the pantry. If the corn syrup can be replaced with honey this could be a good base for granola bars, but I'm not sure if that's possible. No surprises here--these are as simple as you remember.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 cups cornflakes

Mix together the sugar, salt and corn syrup in a 1 quart saucepan. Heat over medium until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and mix in peanut butter. Pour over cornflakes and mix together. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What You Should Know!

You really need to get yourself a copy of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. I mean really. It's not just that it has a lot of recipes, it has a whole lot of practical advice about stocking your kitchen, basic cooking techniques, and approaching menu planning. Sure, things have changed since the 40's but I think the opening sentence that suggests you "buy high-grade pieces because they will decidedly outwear inferior articles" is still good advice. And wouldn't we all (especially GK) like menu making to "put gaiety into housekeeping?" Ok, I smirk a little as I say that last part. But it goes on to say "cooking may be as much a means of self-expression as any of the arts" and I like that very much, especially since I have the perspective that women should be valued more for fulfilling some of their traditional roles even though they shouldn't be limited to them but that's a whole different topic and probably a different blog altogether.

What does Fannie Farmer have to say about the basics of cooking? Well, let's start with the "Fifty Basic Recipes (FOR STUDENTS AND BEGINNERS)" that I mentioned briefly here. Have you mastered all of these? I sure haven't, even disregarding the ones that aren't vegetarian.
  1. White Bread
  2. Standard Rolls
  3. Baking Powder Biscuits
  4. Muffins
  5. Griddlecakes
  6. Waffles
  7. Doughnuts
  8. Canapes
  9. Brown Stock
  10. Plain Stuffing
  11. White Sauce
  12. Hollandaise
  13. Broiled Steak
  14. Roast Beef
  15. Broiled Chicken
  16. Fried Chicken
  17. Roast Chicken
  18. Chicken Stew
  19. Chicken Timbales
  20. Potato Croquettes
  21. French Dressing
  22. Mayonnaise
  23. Green Salad
  24. Molded Salads
  25. Soft Custard
  26. Steamed Puddings
  27. French Souffle
  28. Cottage Pudding
  29. Shortcake
  30. Fruit Fritters
  31. Cream Puffs
  32. Vanilla Ice Cream
  33. Hard Sauce
  34. Plain Pastry
  35. Puff Paste
  36. Chiffon Pie
  37. True Sponge Cake
  38. Butter Cake
  39. Chocolate Cake
  40. Dark Fruit Cake
  41. Boiled Frosting
  42. Butter Frosting
  43. Cream Filling
  44. Sugar Cookies
  45. Meringues
  46. Chocolate Fudge
  47. Fruit Jelly
  48. Fruit Jam
  49. Canning Fruits and Vegetables
  50. Freezing
The list seems quite heavy on desserts, but I ain't complaining. Number 49 is interesting, like, oh yeah, of course you should be able to can fruits and vegetables. I am even more afraid of canning than of the raw eggs in number 22 because I just know if I canned something everyone would get botulism. But I think canning gets at really important elements of food choices since a focus on locally produced foods would inevitably lead to some kind of preservation if we want to have access to out of season foods. For now, I'll stick to oven roasting tomatoes or making batches of sauce to freeze. Yes, I'm much more comfortable with number 50. How 'bout you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Food for the Soul

This week our CSA share included turnips. I'm never quite sure what to do with them and I am sad to admit that I have let a few rot away in the fridge. My dad mentioned that my great grandmother used to mash them, so I went looking for a recipe for mashed turnips and found a few, all similar and all fairly simple. Have you ever had mashed turnips? They are not sturdy like potatoes, they are more watery and taste a bit like cauliflower.

Since they seem to be a fairly neutral side dish, I decided to use them on a soul food platter. Of course, after tasting the barbecued tofu, swiss chard and turnip greens (didn't want to waste 'em!), mashed sweet potatoes, and whole wheat corn muffins, my husband said, "I've had soul food and this isn't it." Whatever. He had seconds.

Mashed Turnips
Adapted from 250 Ways to Serve Fresh Vegetables, 1950.

2 1/2 pounds turnips
1/2 to 1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 Tbs butter

Pare turnips and cut into cubes. Heat water and salt to boiling, add turnips and return lid to pot to prevent water loss due to steam. Reduce heat and simmer 20 to 35 minutes until soft. Drain turnips and mash together with butter and pepper.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Green Food

Today is blog action day, a day when bloggers write about environmental issues in a way that relates to their blog (or not).

We have to eat. Our choices can become a routine we don't think twice about. But every day we are given the opportunity to make choices that lessen our negative impact on the earth. There are many ways to do this, but here are a couple that anyone can do:

1. Eat locally. Now really, I don't eat everything locally and I don't even strive to. I think the 100 mile diet is a great idea in theory but not practical for me, though we can all learn from the principles. Food trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away uses fuel and other resources and encourages alterations to plants so they can make the long journey and still look good. Unfortunately, this food might look good but is often flavorless.

There are a lot of reasons to eat locally and a lot of ways you can make that change. Check out Local Harvest and Slow Food USA. Join a CSA, frequent your local farmers market, or just start paying attention to where your food is grown and produced. I'm still buying coffee and brown rice from all over the world but looking at the picture above showing just one weeks share from our CSA you can see eating locally isn't a sacrifice.

2. Go vegetarian. Yes, being vegetarian is about compassion for animals and that was the initial draw for me. But other reasons for committing to vegetarianism for life are the environmental benefits. Raising animals for meat is a very inefficient use of grain and water and other resources, and there are concerns about pollution associated with large animal farms (like run off from chicken farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed). Read more about environmental vegetarianism here and consider becoming vegetarian or at least committing to more vegetarian meals every week.

3. Carry reusable bags. Whether shopping at a farmers market or a supermarket we need something to haul our groceries home. If you haven't already, make the switch to reusable bags. You will be surprised at their strength and will probably regret not doing it earlier. My favorite canvas bags are these, but I also carry a couple of these for other purchases that come up.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oh, yum, this is classic

We probably all agree that there are a a handful of classic food and drink combinations: cookies and milk, tea and scones, wine and cheese. If I linked to every recipe that sounded great, well, I wouldn't have room for recipes from my own cookbooks. But I can't resist pointing you to this take on coffee and doughnuts. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fakin' It

Here is what is happening in my version of events: the air is cool, leaves are changing colors and falling to the ground, and Green Bay is still undefeated. Instead, temperatures are in the 90's, the brittle leaves on the ground are mostly from the drought, and Green Bay should have won their game Sunday night. So forgive me if I spent today making my own little taste of fall: pumpkin muffins.

From now on I am going to start providing the original recipe only changing it to be consistent with the format I use here. I'll put notes in the header to describe how I changed things because I am quite likely to do that, but otherwise you'll get the original recipe.

Longfellow's Wayside Inn: South Sudbury, Massachusetts
Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Recipes from Famous Places, 1978. These taste very strongly of cloves, so I recommend reducing the amount of ground cloves you use. I replaced most of the flour with white whole wheat flour and reduced the amount of sugar a bit. They are not as moist or crumby as most pumpkin muffins I've made in the past.

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 400. Soak raisins in the 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes; do not drain. In large mixing bowl beat eggs. Stir in pumpkin, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and salt. Add oil and mix well.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to pumpkin mixture with half of the raisin-water mixture. Mix well. Stir in the rest of the raisin mixture.

Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake about 25 minutes, until top springs back when pressed with finger. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Autumn Kickoff

Attending the Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, WV is a signal that fall has started. Unlike years past though the weather was decidedly un-fall like; we weren't able to enjoy the first taste of hot cider of the season and my mother-in-law ended up toting around a sweater she didn't need. Still, people seemed to enjoy attending the bubbling hot cauldrons of apple butter and we bought our autumn staples of apple and pumpkin butters. Despite wrong-feeling weather, it was still a nice, small festival and a great halfway point to meet some of our in-laws. Having a nephew and two nieces there made it more fun, too, because it's easy to get focused on the adult things (eating and listening to music) and forget about hanging out by the mineral springs which the town is known for.

I was happy to come across the Mountain State Honey Company table (no website), where I was able to sample six different West Virginia honeys and given an overview of each variety. Since reading Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, I have become increasingly interested in getting away from white sugar and finding new sweeteners so this was great timing. I walked away with just two varieties--Basswood, a light almost minty honey which I'll use for sweetening tea and yogurt, and Knotweed, a very dark woodier tasting honey which I'll use for baking but mostly I think it will go well with cheese.

Finally, I couldn't resist spending time in some of the antique stores where I browsed cookbooks and found more than a few I wanted. I settled on just three and you will see recipes from those soon!