Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bonus Post: Homemade Helper

With soccer season beginning tonight and the first day of school looming ahead I thought I'd share some quick make ahead recipes that embody all of the wholesome real ingredients you're used to here at Ode To Mrs. Katz Cohn.

I've never been a fan of Hamburger Helper as my foodie-vegetarian mother never made it at home.  I'd tasted them at friend's homes but never made them myself as an adult.  Boxed meals are everything I've grown to despise about processed food.  They're made in a factory, use chemicals and artificial ingredients, contain too many calories and salt, and taste unsatisfying.  So why explore homemade versions?  In reading The Way America Eats by Tracie McMillan (see my review here) I learned why these meals are popular and that it takes about the same amount of time to make them from scratch.  (The biggest reason- not having to decide what to make for dinner.  Count me in!)  So while Tracie didn't include a recipe I was intrigued.  Off Googling I went and found Suzanne McMinn's blog, Chickens in the Road.  There are many recipes out there but Suzanne's has different flavors of Homemade Helper and she created each one herself.  I couldn't wait to try them!

First I made the Salisbury and then tonight I made the Lasagna.  Neither are the best meals I've ever made nor are they meals I'd make for a special occasion but for their intended purpose, making a nutritious meal from scratch in about 20 minutes, they were perfect.

Take a look at Suzanne's original post.  Poke around her site too.  There are tons of recipes she's created and most are made from real whole foods.  I already bookmarked half a dozen to try!

Since I enjoyed the first two I thought I'd prepare more as ready-to-make mixes to have in the pantry.  It took about 10 minutes.  

Yes, I still have holiday zip bags.  Ha ha!
First measure out the spices and mix them in a little container, labeling the tops.  Then measure out the pasta and put it in the big zip bag.  Write the fresh ingredients required on the bag so you know in a glance if you have everything else.  Slip the instructions into the bag and that's it!

What's nice about making Helper meals yourself is that you can adjust the amount of salt, sugar, and seasonings to suit your taste and dietary requirements.  Use gluten free pasta if you need.  (And pure cornstarch.)  Strict about organics?  Use all organic ingredients.   Want to make use of that bargain pasta that was on sale and you bought way too much?  Well here you go!  (Er, uh... I have no idea how it happened.  Really.  You should see my basement!)  Sneak in more veggies if you want.  Mushrooms or onions sound good in a few of these dishes but experiment when you have time.  (See Suzanne's original post linked above regarding fresh veggies.)  The recipes can be doubled or tripled if you have hungry teens or a larger family.  Each recipe made enough for 4 servings for us but I can see myself doubling them as my son grows up.  He's already eating more than his older sisters.

Everyone in the family gave these meals a solid B.   Pretty good since I feel like I didn't put forth much of an effort.  What more could a mom want?  (An easy A!  But in the kitchen an easy A is hard to get. LOL)

Here's to a terrific school year!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Corn Bread, A Modern Kitchen Guide cookbook, 1940

I finally found a wining recipe!  Hubby and I love cornbread, especially with his homemade chili recipe.  The chili recipe is a super duper secret that hubby won't share.  I've asked.  It's the same chili his mother used to make.  He's been making it since before we met so I really have no claim.  Ha ha.

First I'd like to share this with you this cookbook, covered with adorable oilcloth by Mrs. Cohen.  I found it at the estate sale at her home.  The whole bookshelf to the left of the fireplace in the living room was filled with oilcloth covered cookbooks.  There were all different prints and colors, blending together making it feel like a piece of art.  I wanted to buy them all.  I should have at least taken a pic.

Here's the recipe:

I made this recipe without any changes but it needs some "updating" in terminology.  "Sweet milk" is just regular milk.  I noticed in vintage cookbooks this term is often used to differentiate whole milk from lower fat varieties or buttermilk.  To be a true vintage cook you could try to find milk with the cream on the top and use that, shaking it first.  I once got it from our CSA.  Freaked hubby out when he poured it onto his cereal.  Thought it was curdled.  I ran into the kitchen just in time to save it from going down the drain.

Another change I made was in mixing the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet.  The recipe doesn't explicitly say to do this but I think it's assumed that the cook has some basic kitchen knowledge.

Here is is typed up and easy to read.

1C Flour
1C Corn meal (The recipe called for white corn meal but I only had yellow.)
 4t Baking powder
1/2t Salt
1/2C Sugar
3T Melted butter
2 Eggs
1C Whole Milk

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix the flour, corn meal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  In a larger bowl beat the eggs and mix in the sugar and milk.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mix well and then mix in the butter.

Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch square pan (the recipe doesn't say the size but I made a dozen and a half muffins which is about the same as one vintage square pan.) or 18 muffin cups lined with papers.  Bake for 25 minutes or until brown and springy to the touch.

From this to...


Everyone loved these, even my daughter who said "Mom, I don't know if I like corn bread."  (She ate 3 so apparently she does.)   My son said they were better than dad's chili, something I'm glad hubby didn't hear.  My oldest daughter was at work during dinner and came home hungry.  Her eyes lit up when she found the cornbread.  So all in all I'd say we have a winner!!

I hope everyone is having a great August and savoring the last weeks of summer.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Book review, a few kitchen failures, and other reasons I've been AWOL!

Hey there, dear readers.  I can't believe it's been over two weeks since my last post.  I've tried a few recipes that haven't turned out so there hasn't been much post.  I hope everyone has had better luck in their kitchen!

We've been busy as a family the past two weeks too.  Hubby and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary in July!!  We had a very nice dinner out to celebrate.  My oldest was in a musical at our local outdoor theater, my youngest was taking a reading class, and my middle is continuing her drum lessons.  Plus all of their other classes.  And the dog.  He's discovered the joys of the dog beach and we've been taking him quite a bit.  He's not so fond of the bath he gets afterwards though.

I've been reading this fascinating book, The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan.  Tracie is a reporter who has written for the New York Times and O Magazine.  She uses her skills and experience to go undercover to learn how our food supply works as a day laborer and as a minimum wage worker.  First in the fields in California, then at Walmart in Michigan, then at Applebee's in New York.  What's even more impressive is that she chooses to live authentically on the wages she earns in each job.  Parts of the book are a bit heavy on statistics but it's necessary to truly understand how and why we Americans eat what we do.  Tracie certainly did her research.  Her narrative is very enjoyable to read too.  Here's the cover:

Has anyone read this book?  If so let me know what you think in the comments!

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.  I can't believe school starts soon- 3 weeks!  :(  I'll be back with a recipe when I can find a great one.