December 23, 2006

Last Minute Gifts

It's getting down to the wire and time is running out. If you're in need of any last minute Christmas gifts and your holiday gift recipient is fond of cooking then I have two gift suggestions that you can get right now without even leaving leaving the chair you're sitting in this very minute.

These are great gifts for anyone--a spouse, son or daughter (young college students or newlyweds), aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters; a neighbor, or a friend or acquaintance whom you wish to remember. They make great stocking stuffers too! These gifts also ensure that your recipient will think of you several times during the upcoming year!

A subscription to Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks or the Betty Crocker Recipe Magazine is an inexpensive, useful gift and may just be something that your recipient wouldn't think of doing for themselves!

Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks have been published since the 1970s and have quite a faithful following judging by the amount of requests I get for both old and new out-of-print issues. They are handy, compact and will fit neatly into a space in the kitchen or a desk, making them an easy reference for recipes, recipe ideas and shopping lists.

The Betty Crocker Recipe Magazines have been around quite awhile too and are about the same compact size as the Pillsbury issues, illustrated with the same type of great color photographs of the completed dishes.

Both of these magazines use their respective brand name products in the recipes. Sometimes the issues will contain only recipes that focus on one particular product; at other times there are a mixture of recipes that revolve around a certain theme. Most are also filled with tips and suggestions to make cooking a meal or a snack even easier.

Yes, they're available at supermarket check-out stands, but many people won't indulge for themselves, or are erratic in their purchases, making it easy to miss an issue.

You can use your computer to print out a gift card showing the magazine subscription has been made in the recipients name and enclose it in a Christmas card or, if you want to have something to wrap up, you can easily find the latest issues of these publications at the supermarket, the drugstore or the Wal-Mart.

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December 21, 2006

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Pie

At one point during the past week, somewhere on the roads between hospitals in Kerrville and far north Houston where we've been visiting relatives who are ill, I noticed that Baskin-Robbins had changed their logo.

While I'm not overly fond of the new look, they get points for even standing out at all amidst the jillions of other signs in the retail glut that is Texas. (We have the space to build duplicate stores and restaurants every 2.5 miles and so we do. For me, it's definitely a love/hate thing.)

Seeing the sign triggered thoughts of ice cream cakes and ice cream pies, and so I got to looking around to see if I had a recipe booklet from Baskin-Robbins.

Sure enough, I found one. The Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Show-Off (1973, 24 pp) is a booklet containing 47 prize-winning recipes from a Baskin-Robbins-sponsored recipe contest with the same name.

The only evidence of the Baskin-Robbins logo in this publication is on the front cover, where it appears they took part of the old logo and added a prize-ribbon streamer tail to it, sort of a play on prize-winning recipes I guess.

The photograph on the front cover shows the Grand Prize winning recipe -- Heavenly Ice Cream Puff Fondue. This recipe was submitted by Laurie H. Freedman of Brooklyn, New York. The names and locations of the winning recipe contestants are shown at the end of every recipe.

The interior pages are printed on pink paper, a reflection of the familiar old company logo colors. The rear of the booklet is stamped with the name and address of one of the franchise stores (#543 in Rockford, Illinois in this case). Perhaps they were giving these booklets away as a promotional item at the individual stores.

Since we're still deep into the Christmas holiday season, I thought I'd share the following recipe from the booklet which seems fitting. This winning recipe was created by Susan T. Burtch of Richmond, Virgina.


There are, of course, traditionalists among us pumpkin pie eaters. However, holiday dinners and special parties the year around call for a super special pumpkin pie. Here it is, and the grand point of difference is a Butter Pecan Ice Cream "crust".

1-1/2 quarts Baskin-Robbins Butter Pecan Ice Cream
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, salt
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup chopped pecans

(Thirty minutes before preparing Ice Cream crust, put a deep 9-inch pie pan in freezer.) To make crust: Working quickly, line bottom and sides of frozen pan with Ice Cream. Do not put Ice Cream on edges of pan. Build up crust 1/2 inch above edge of pan by overlapping tablespoons of Ice Cream. Freeze at least 2 hours. Combine sugar, pumpkin, spices and salt in a saucepan; cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Cool. Reserve 1/4 cup whipped cream for garnish. Fold remaining whipped cream into pumpkin mixture. Spoon into frozen Ice Cream crust, swirling top. Freeze at least 2 hours. In small saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter and water. Bring just to a boil, cook 1-1/2 minutes, remove from heat, stir in pecans. Cool. Spoon mixture around edge between filling and crust. Mound the 1/4 cup of reserved whipped cream in center. Freeze. Let mellow for 10 minutes in refrigerator; cut in wedges.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Old Fashioned Butter Pecan is one of the Permanent Flavors at Baskin Robbins so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. The photo of the finished pie was shown on the rear cover of the recipe booklet.

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December 20, 2006

Bob Evans Sausage

Down on the Farm Sausage Recipes (not dated, 12 pp) was a complimentary recipe booklet published by Bob Evans Farms. The slim booklet contains recipes using a variety of their pork sausage products.

The introduction in the front of the recipe booklet mentions that the very first batch of Bob Evans Sausage, made from an old family recipe, was made "nearly 40 years ago". The Bob Evans website states that Bob Evans began making sausage on his Ohio farm for his small diner in Gallipolis, Ohio in 1948. So, we can estimate that the publication date of this booklet was probably sometime around 1987 or 1988.

Although today Bob Evans Farms produces an extensive line of grocery products that includes entrees, roll and biscuits, side dishes and other breakfast foods, this booklet features Bob Evans Roll Sausage, Sausage Patties and Sausage Links. You can see the packaging used in the late 1980s on the picture shown on the front cover.

The booklet contains 25 recipes in all, divided into the categories of Breakfast or Brunch, Dinners, Sandwiches, Stuffing, Soups 'n Snacks and even Desserts.

I'm sharing two of the recipes from this booklet below; one for stuffing since it's close to Christmas and you might be looking for a recipe to use with your holiday turkey, and the other, a dessert recipe, as you might be curious as to how sausage could be used in a recipe for sweets.

The recipe directions are rather short. Experienced cooks should have no problem, but beginning cooks might have questions--for instance, in the cake recipe I would spray the loaf pans with a cooking oil spray before adding the batter.

(12 to 16-lb. turkey)

4 qts. toasted bread crumbs
1 lb. Bob Evans Farms Roll Sausage
1/2 pounds mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sage
1/4 c. minced onion
1/4 c. minced celery

Cook sausage until brown and crisp, after breaking into pieces. Saute mushrooms in the drippings. Toss sausage, mushrooms, bread and seasonings together, using part of the sausage drippings, and moisten further with stock if desired.



1 lb. box raisins
1 lb. Bob Evans Farms Roll Sausage
1 c. water (hot)
2 c. brown sugar (heaping)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 c. chopped walnuts

Cook raisins and then use a cup of the raisin water (hot) to mash sausage. Mix raisins and sausage together and add dry ingredients. Makes two loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

December 18, 2006

Cordial Cookery

The recipes below and the suggestions of cordial/fruit combinations come from the recipe booklet A Collection of Cordial Cookery Recipes Featuring Hiram Walker Cordials (not dated, 24 pp).

Clues to the date of publication are the mention of the return of the chafing dish, the instructions for flambeing and the number of flambe recipes found inside. Some of the drinks in the booklet are the Black Pepper, the Zombie, the Pink Squirrel and the White Lily Cocktail.

The center two pages of the booklet show illustrations of thirty-two different bottles of Hiram Walker liqueurs, brandies, cordials and other cocktail ingredients. Since this booklet is printed on a newsprint-quality paper, the illustrations appear similar to those you would find in a newspaper advertisement or liquor store flyer.

The holidays are always a nice time to add a little extra zing to your dishes that you're serving your guests.

"The use of cordials in cookery allows you to use your imagination and daring in cooking. The only thing you really need remember is to match the Cordial to the food."

Here are the Cordial Companions for Fruit suggested by Hiram Walker, Inc.:

  • Anisette: Fresh pineapple, oranges, peaches, pears
  • Apricot Brandy: Apricots, peaches, melon, oranges, plums
  • Blackberry Brandy: Melon, peaches, pears, plums, grapefruit
  • Cherry Brandy: Berries, melon, cherries, pineapple, pears
  • Curacao: Berries, oranges, apricots, grapefruit, peaches
  • Creme De Cacao: Bananas, pears
  • Creme De Menthe: Pineapple, grapefruit, pears, pomegranates
  • Ginger Brandy: Oranges, peaches, pears, baked apples
  • Peach Brandy: Peaches, pears, oranges, pineapple, tangerines
  • Peppermint Schnapps: Same as Creme de Menthe
  • Triple Sec: Same as Curacao
Recipes with a little something extra:


6 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1-1/4 cups evaporated milk
1/4 cup Hiram Walker Orange Curacao

Blend sugar, salt, spices, syrup and eggs. Add pumpkin, milk and Orange Curacao. Pour into pie shell, bake at 425-degree oven about one hour, or until done.

4 sweet potatoes
6 oranges, halved
3 oz. Hiram Walker Curacao
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. powdered cinnamon
salt and pepper

Bake sweet potatoes in oven until tender. Remove pulp and mash, add Hiram Walker Curacao, butter, cinnamon, salt, pepper. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Remove pulp from the oranges and fill shells with the yam mixture. Bake 15 minutes in 400-degree oven.

Some quick fixings:


Fill 2-inch pieces of celery with cream cheese, softened with Hiram Walker Apricot Flavored Brandy, and add drained, crushed pineapple.


1/2 pt. mayonnaise
2 to 4 ounces of any of the Hiram Walker Cordials

Mix thoroughly, and if you wish, add a little more of the Cordial of your choosing.

    December 12, 2006

    Beanie the Genie

    I'll be writing about a coffee booklet again today. Lest you think that I'm on some kind of coffee binge, rest assured that as there is no rhyme or reason to which booklets I share with you each day, it may be that I won't write about coffee again for a long, long time. On the other hand, I might come across another coffee booklet tomorrow that strikes my fancy.

    A Trip to Columbia: Land of Mountain Coffee (not dated, 36 pp) was published and distributed by a trade organization called the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia.

    The Federation, founded in 1927 and headquartered in Bogota, Colombia, was (is) a non-profit, non-political organization similar to the United States Department of Agriculture. It presently represents a collective of over 560,000 Colombian coffee growers. Besides Colombia, they also have offices in the United States and in other countries around the world.

    Colombian Coffee is not a brand of coffee, but rather an origin of the coffee. Most coffee brands are a blend of Colombian Coffee and coffee of other origins. There are brands, however, that consist entirely of 100% Colombian Coffee.

    One of the primary functions of this group is promoting the consumption of Colombian Coffee. In an overview of their past advertising practices, their website states:

    "To promote Colombian Coffee consumption it was first necessary to let consumers know why Colombian Coffee is a better product, hence to teach them the amount of care and labor that goes into growing and harvesting Colombian Coffee as well as the ideal climatic conditions that are hard to find in other countries."

    This promotional booklet fits the bill exactly. While it does provide information of some value to adults, its format indicates to me that it was probably part of an educational campaign directed towards children. Including children in the consumer educational process was not unusual. Another example of this is the United Fruit Company, who, in 1929, began printing educational material for school classrooms which promoted banana consumption.

    A Trip to Columbia is not dated, but I believe it was probably published around 1958 or 1959. The booklet explains that the annual coffee crop production in 1927 yielded 2,300,000 bags and in 1958 the number had increased to 7,300,000 bags. (In contrast, the projected production figure for 2005 was 11,500,00 bags.)

    This booklet does not contain any recipes at all. It's basically divided into three sections:

    The first portion of the booklet is a story about the history of coffee. It's illustrated with colorful, cartoon-type drawings and is narrated by a character who is called Beanie the Genie. Beanie, a Colombian coffee bean sporting a bright yellow sombrero (hat), is shown on the front cover. Perhaps Beanie was a character intended for children, but regardless, his days as an advertising icon were numbered, as the Juan Valdez character and spokesman was created in 1959. Juan Valdez, the famous cafetero (coffee farmer) remains as a well-known figure today. You will find the Juan Valdez logo on many Colombia Coffee products.

    The second section of the booklet is the portion which focuses on the growing and harvesting of the Colombian Coffee beans. This section is illustrated with old color and black/white photos (reminiscent of the photos found in most geography textbooks from that same time period) of real people on real farms harvesting and growing real coffee beans. Beanie the Genie refers to this section of photographs as his "family album."

    The third section discusses the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia and how the organization functions for the coffee farmers and the coffee trade.

    The inside of the front cover is a color drawing showing a Coffee Map of Colombia. It indicates the coffee growing areas, mountain ranges and the Federation offices. Inside the rear cover is another color map of Columbia showing Other Important Crops of Colombia. Forest products, wheat, cotton, emeralds, tobacco, rubber, sugar, cattle and bananas are all represented.

    December 11, 2006

    The Maxwell House Sign

    I'm a little sad today after reading that Maximus Coffee Group, the new owners of the Maxwell House plant on Harrisburg here in Houston, plan on removing the Maxwell House sign with the little coffee cup.

    The plant is a familiar landmark for me, another one that's been there all of my life. We used to pass it on our way to the public swimming pool and later on while visiting junior high friends and whenever we had errands over that way. It's a tangible piece of the past for this Houstonian whose roots are on the east end of town.

    Even though they'll still be producing Maxwell House Coffee at the plant, it won't be the same.

    And, after all, it's only a sign. The 350 workers employed at the plant probably won't mind, so long as they still have a job to go to every day.

    It's just a sign, but that little sign makes a bigger impression upon me as far as brand name recognition goes than do all of the Minute Maid Parks, Toyota Centers and Reliant Stadiums.

    Perhaps someone else is nostalgic as well, as coincidentally, a Maxwell House recipe booklet is on its way out the door today.

    How to Make Good Coffee (1937, 24 pp) was published by General Foods before they acquired the particular plant I spoke of above. The booklet comes from the Consumer Services Department in Hoboken, NJ, but Houston, Tex is also listed along with Los Angeles, Cal. and Jacksonville, Fla. on copyright page.

    The booklet describes in detail how to make coffee using a variety of methods: drip, percolated, using vacuum-type coffeemakers, and boiled or steeped. Two pages describe and illustrate the different kinds of coffee pots.

    At the time of printing, two grinds of Maxwell House Coffee were offered: Regular Grind (for percolated or boiled) and Drip Gind (for drip pots). As a kid, I remember being confused about all that grind business, and always had to be reminded which one to get when I was sent to the corner store to get more coffee.

    The booklet gives directions and recipes for After-Dinner Coffee, Cafe Au Lait, Iced Coffee, Coffee for 40 Persons, Iced Coffolate, Brazilian Chocolate, and Coffee Desserts, which were Marvel Coffee Pie, Coffee Ice Cream, Coffee Carnival, Louisiana Spice Cake, Creole Butter Frosting and Mocha Walnut Cake.

    The booklet is illustrated with small black and white illustrations of coffee pots and the old-style Maxwell House coffee cans like my grandfather used to store nails, screws, nuts and bolts in out in his tool shed.

    It also contains The Story of Maxwell House Coffee, a portion of which I've shown below:

    "Most famous, most patronized of all fine hostelries in the Old South was the celebrated Maxwell House in Nashville, Tennessee. For over eighty years it was the very centre of social elegance and sumptuous entertaining.

    Even in those days of lavish menus and epicurean delights its exquisite table delicacies were favorite topics of conversation. And, what was more important, nowhere else could such delicious, mellow coffee be had! Indeed, from the very moment that Maxwell House Coffee made its debut in the marbled dining halls of the famous old Maxwell House it me with the enthusiastic approval of men and women of the most critical, most cultivated taste. Many were the congratulations that Joel Cheek, its young originator, received. And Maxwell House, the old hostelry itself, achieved new heights of popularity.

    It was President Theodore Roosevelt who voiced those famous words "good to the last drop," when, with that celebrated smile of his, he asked if he might have a second cup of Maxwell House Coffee.

    News of this wonderful new coffee had spread through the entire Southland. Its fame grew with the years, and today Maxwell House Coffee, so fragrant, so rich in flavor, has become America's favorite fine coffee."

    More of the Maxwell House Story (that's not in the booklet):

    Joel Cheek, a wholesale grocer, began mixing a special blend of coffee around 1892 which he began selling to the Maxwell House hotel. Cheek and his partner, John Neal, formed the Nashville Coffee and Manufacturing Company in 1901, around the same time they began producing and branding the Maxwell House coffee blend for mass consumption. Their venture was later renamed the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company. The Postum Company purchased the assets of their company in 1928 and changed the name to the Maxwell House Products Company. In 1929 the Postum company name was changed to the General Foods Corporation. Kraft Inc. and General Foods Corporation joined forces in 1989 and become Kraft General Foods, whose name was changed to Kraft Foods Inc. in 1995.

    The original Maxwell House Hotel refered to in this booklet, which was located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Church Street in downtown Nashville, was destroyed by fire in December 1961.

    If you're looking for a newer version of a Maxwell House cookbook, you can take a look at this one, which was published in 2003.

    December 08, 2006

    Occident Flour Milling

    The other day I wrote about the information that could be gleaned from old recipe booklets. Sometimes this information is lost when companies go out of business or change hands. Recipe booklets are sometimes a good reference source.

    Here's a bit of trivia about Russell-Miller Milling and their grain storage and processing that was included in the Occident Flour Tested Recipes (1938, 24 pp) cookbook. This type of information was meant to inspire confidence in consumers.


    "In 1901 two small mills, built some years before, were operating in Valley City and Jamestown, N.D. They were in the heart of the hard wheat district of the northwest, the section conceded by all experts to produce some of the finest wheat grown anywhere in the world.

    Growth of Capacity

    From this small beginning, with a daily capacity of 225 barrels, the Russell-Miller Milling Co. now owns twelve flour mills with a combined daily capacity of over 16,000 barrels of flour and 600 tons of feed.

    Storage of 17,000,000 Bushels

    In order to provide an ample reserve storage of wheat to keep the quality of Occident Flour constantly uniform, the Russell-Miller Milling Co. has one hundred and forty elevators situated at advantageious points throughout selected wheat sections of North Dakota and Eastern Montana, three huge terminal elevators which have facilities for storing 12,000,000 bushels. Combining this immense terminal elevator capacity with the 4,000,000 bushel capacity of the country elevators and the elevators attached to country mills (capacity, 1,000,000 bushels), the company has equipment for storage of 17,000,000 bushels.

    The Occident mills operate on one standard of uniformity. Every bushel of wheat is put through special equipment that not only washes each kernel--but actually scours it as well!"

    In the early 1950s F. H. Peavey & Company, headquartered in Minneapolis, purchased Russell Miller Milling and its 140 country elevators, terminals, and flour mills. The company was renamed as the Peavey Company in 1962. The Peavey Company was acquired by ConAgra, Inc. in 1982. ConAgra is now the largest U.S. flour miller.

    This small cookbook contains 46 recipes for yeast breads, quick breads, cakes and icings, cookies, pastries and desserts. It's illustrated with black and white photos with three extra pages of step-by-step illustrations and some smaller black and white photos describing an easy method of baking bread, how to make a cake quickly and easily, and pie baking in a nutshell.

    December 07, 2006

    Minute Tapioca Cookbooks

    Food company cookbooks sometimes provide more than just recipes. Often you can find out additional information about a food company and their cookbooks from information found inside the booklets themselves. Below is the Introduction to the Revised Edition found in the booklet From Soup to Dessert with Minute Tapioca (1928, 32 pp).

    (This introduction is from the booklet shown below at the right. It's rather confusing as the revised edition that they're speaking of has a completely different title from the original edition.)


    "The former edition of the famous Minute Tapioca Cook Book was compiled in order to give you a booklet of choice recipes that would further acquaint you with the uses of this versatile product.

    This book has such revisions and additions as we feel sure will make the Minute Tapioca Cook Book more helpful to you than ever before. The 78 recipes in this book are the result of a world-wide contest. 121,619 housewives at home and abroad sent us their favorite recipes. From this vast number, the judges selected 78 recipes as the ones that would lend greater variety to your meals, make new economies possible, and help you in maintaining your reputation as a skilled cook.

    The judges in this contest were the following ably-qualified women: Miss Mabel Jewett Crosby, Home Economics Editor of the Ladies' Home Journal; Miss Katherine A. Fisher, Director of Good Housekeeping Institute; and Mrs. Elizabeth A. MacDonald, Professor of Home Economics, Boston University, College of Practical Arts and Letters.

    This new edition of the Minute Tapioca Cook Book has been retested and revised by the educational department of the Minute Tapioca Company. It contains recipes not only for an amazing variety of delicious and economical desserts, but also points out the importance of Minute Tapioca as a children's food and shows in a large variety of recipes how Minute Tapioca as a precision ingredient helps to insure more complte success in cookery.

    You will, therefore, find this Minute Tapioca Cook Book divided into three sections: Minute Tapioca in a wide range of wonderful desserts; Minute Tapioca as a precision ingredient in a variety of soups, souffles, omelets, and entrees; and Minute Tapioca in the diets of children."

    December 06, 2006

    Amaretto Drink Recipes

    If you're entertaining at home this holiday season, more than likely you'll be serving some type of alcoholic beverage to your guests.

    While you're in the liquor store stocking up you'll probably see some of the recipe pamphlets and booklets published by the distilling companies and breweries. They publish free recipe booklets just like the food companies do.

    Italian Intrigue (1980, 20 pp) is one of those booklets that came off of a liquor store display. Published by Foreign Vintages, Inc., it's a small booklet that contains 34 drink recipes that use Amaretto di Saronno liqueur as the alcoholic ingredient. It's illustrated with nice color photos of the drinks in their appropriate glassware.

    Many of the drink names are familiar: The Godfather, The Godmother, Foxy Lady and the Velvet Glove. I remember working in a restaurant bar back when it was first became popular for bartenders to use ice cream in the place of regular cream in the after dinner drinks--those yummy concoctions were good enough to make you want to skip dinner and go right to the end of the meal.

    Some of the recipes in this booklet call for ice cream in the original recipes: Neapolitan Ice Cream Soda, Banana Frosted, Strawberry Shake and the Coffee Lover's Iced Coffee.

    There are four recipes in the Nogs and Punches section that might work for a holiday crowd, depending upon whether your local weather temperatures are hot or cold: Mocha Eggnog Saronno, Hot Buttered Saronno, Sangronno and Saronno Sunshine Punch.

    Check out the displays in your liquor store this month if you're looking for more contemporary recipes--although I'm sure the old favorites will still be there too.

    Don't forget to encourage your guests who will be consuming alcoholic beverages to pick a designated driver. Let's have a safe holiday season!


    6 eggs (see my note below)
    1/2 cup sugar
    4 cups (1 quart) half and half
    1 cup Amaretto di Saronno
    1/2 cup instant coffee granules
    1 cup chocolate syrup
    2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
    1/4 cup Amaretto di Saronno

    Beat eggs with sugar until fluffy. Gradually beat in half and half. Mix Amaretto di Saronno and coffee until dissolved. Stir coffee mixture and chocolate syrup into eggs. Pour into a 2-1/2 quart bowl. Chill. Whip cream with amaretto di Saronno and spoon on top of eggnog. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

    Makes 12 servings

    Note: The recipe above is from the Italian Intrigue booklet. Note that it calls for the use of raw eggs. This is a controversial subject and you should make your own decisions as to whether or not you wish to assume the slight risk of food borne illnesses that can occur when using raw eggs in recipes. You can Google the term EGGNOG RAW EGGS and make your own decision.


    December 05, 2006

    All Ready Pie Crusts

    Making a good flaky pie crust is an art, a skill, a gene that some of us simply don't have.

    I had a Thanksgiving Day conversation with someone I know who is always able turn out the perfect pie crust from scratch and makes wonderful pies. She said she doesn't know what the secret is, she just does it. She's teaching her daughter, who was the one who made the pies this year. The daughter must be catching on--I was impressed that three days after T-Day the crust on the leftover chocolate pie had yet to turn soggy. Mom's scoring on her daughter's pie crusts that day was "better". Perhaps it's just a matter of patience and practice.

    She offered me a couple of tips that she says works for her:

    1) She said that most recipes say to mix the dough with the pastry blender until it turns to crumbs. She said she does that then keeps on blending for a while longer.

    2) She said that if she needs a single pie crust she makes up a recipe for two crusts; if she needs a double pie crust she makes up a batch for three crusts--that way the dough doesn't have to be overmanipulated when trying to get it to fit on the pan--there is plenty left over. So this is a good way to not over handle the dough.

    For those of us who lack the light touch (or whatever the darn secret is) that's necessary for turning out decent pie crusts, Pillsbury has always been around to help.

    In the 40's they brought us their Pie Crust Mix that came in a box. I remember using this product but it never worked for me personally any better than mixing it up from scratch.

    Then came the refrigerated All Ready Pie Crusts that came already rolled out and folded neatly into a box. I believe these came out sometime in the 80s. Okay, at last I could finally make a passable pie, trying out many of the pie recipes that I had clipped and saved, ever hopeful of the day that I would learn the secret to making pie crusts.

    As with everything, they've improved and changed the product around. In 2004 Pillsbury introduced the refrigerated Unroll and Bake Pie Crust, which comes rolled instead of folded.

    I believe that you could substitute these new pie crusts in the recipes that call for the old version of pie crusts in the booklet Pillsbury published called All Ready Pie Crusts - Four Seasons of Pie Baking (1988, 52 pp).

    Consumers could get this booklet free at the grocery store with the purchase of 2 packages of Pillsbury All Ready Pie Crusts. Extra copies could be obtained through the mail, by sending in a ARPC UPC and 50 cents.

    The recipes are divided, as the title would indicate, into four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. All of the pies are sweet with the exception of four: Chicken Dinner Pie, Ham 'n Swiss Broccoli Quiche, Almond Crunch Chicken Salad (a chicken salad in a pie) and Layered Overnight Summer Salad (also, predictably, in a pie).

    Many of the dessert pie recipes sound good to me: Caramel Sauced Apple Pecan Pie, Kahlua Cream Coffee Pie, Almond Macaroon Cherry Pie, Peanut Cream Pie Supreme, a Buster Summer Pie (ice cream) and the Sweetheart Lemon Cream Torte. I used to have this booklet when it first came out and I'm sure I must have tried one or two of the recipes, but which ones, I can't remember now.

    The booklet contains 39 recipes in all, illustrated with color photographs. The last two pages are comprised of instructions and line drawings of Decorative Fluting Techniques and Lattice Variations.

    And here's something interesting (to me, at least): Last year, at the request of a lady out in cyberspace, I searched and searched to no avail for a Knox recipe booklet that contained a recipe for Grasshopper Pie that used Knox unflavored gelatin as an ingredient. I never found a Knox booklet containing that particular recipe. But in looking through this booklet, the Grasshopper Pie recipe jumps right out at me--it calls for unflavored gelatin (although it's generic and not Knox).


    Look for a surprising chocolate layer underneath the delicately flavored mint filling.

    15-oz pkg. PILLSBURY All Ready Pie Crusts
    1 teaspoon flour

    1 envelope unflavored gelatin
    1/3 cup milk
    4 egg yolks
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/4 cup green creme de menthe
    1/4 cup creme de cacao
    2 to 3 drops green food color, if desired
    1 cup whipping cream, whipped
    2 oz. (2 squares) semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

    Chocolate wedges, if desired*
    Whipping cream, whipped, sweetened, if desired.

    Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare pie crust according to package directions for unfilled one-crust pie using 9-inch pie pan. (Refrigerate remaining crust for later use.) Bake at 450 degrees F. for 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

    In small saucepan, soften gelatin in milk for 5 minutes. Cook over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly. In small bowl, bet egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes.

    Gradually add sugar, creme de menthe, creme de cacao and food color. Stir in the gelatin mixture; mix well. Reserve 3/4 cup filling mixture. Refrigerate remaining filling until mixture begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.

    In small saucepan over low heat, combine reserved 3/4 cup filling and chocolate, stirring constantly until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Spoon into cooled pie crust; spread evenly.

    Fold whipped cream into filling. Spoon over chocolate layer; spread evenly. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with chocolate wedges and whipped cream before serving. Store in regrigerator.

    8 servings

    Tip: *To make chocolate wedges, melt 4 oz. semi-sweet or sweet cooking chocolate. Pour onto waxed paper-covered cookie sheet. Spread evenly to form a circle, about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until slightly hardened, about 10 minutes. Cut circle into 8 wedges. Lift gently from waxed paper with spatula and transer to pie.

    December 03, 2006

    Staley's Approved Recipes

    The A. E. Staley Company, which started out at the turn of the 20th century selling corn starch, went on to expand their product line into other corn products such as salad oil and syrup and then into soybeans and soybean products.

    In the recipe booklet Staley's Approved Recipes (not dated, 32 pp) the company is promoting their syrups and introducing Staley's Salad and Cooking Oil to consumers.

    This particular booklet was most likely published in the mid-1920s as reference is made to the fact that the company had been in business for 25 years. There is also at least one other booklet published with the same title, and with a different cover, with a copyright date of 1928. One day I will have to dig out that booklet and compare the two.

    Grace Viall Gray, at the time at a noted writer and lecturer on cooking subjects, is used as a spokesperson and gives her thumbs up for the new cooking oil at the beginning of the booklet. A black and white cameo photograph of Gray is also shown.

    The booklet contains 65 recipes that are illustrated with the lovely colorful drawings (as shown on the front cover) that were so popular in cookbooks and recipe booklets of that decade.

    Most of the recipes call for either Staley's Salad and Cooking Oil or one of the many Staley's Sryups as an ingredient, but there is one instance that requires their Cream Corn Starch. Some of the recipes for salads and croquettes do not actually use the oil in the recipe but use the salad dressings and sauces that are made with the oil.

    In reference to using their new salad oil for deep frying, the company makes the claim that Staley's Salad and Cooking Oil can be used almost indefinitely by never heating it to a temperature over 420 degrees Fahrenheit and by straining the used oil through a muslin or folded cheese cloth after each use.

    There are many recipes for cakes and candies as well as four preserving recipes. A corn bread recipe calls for Staley's Golden Table Syrup as the sweetener as does the one for Staley's Caramels.

    The center of the booklet is a two-page spread that shows illustrations and highlights the qualities of their salad oils and syrups. In case you were wondering about the differences between the syrups, Staley's describe them as follows:
    • Staley's Crystal White Syrup (red label) - Owing to it's clarity, uniformity and greater degree of sweetness, Crystal White Syrup in actual tests has proven to be superior for cooking, baking and preserving.
    • Staley's Golden Table Syrup (blue label) - A mixture for table use, consisting of pure Corn Syrup with jsut enough choice refiner's syrup added to give it that delightful cane syrup flavor.
    • Staley's Maple Flavored Syrup (green label) - This syrup is made for those who like that piquant flavor of genuine Canadian maple flavored syrup. It is a blend of pure corn syrup and Canadian maple sugar syrup.
    • Staley's Sorghum Flavored Syrup (brown label) - A savory mixture of pure corn syrup and country sorghum, appealing particularly to the taste of those who like the aroma and sugary flavor of old fashioned sorghum.
    These syrups are all pictured as being packaged in small cans while the Salad and Cooking Oil is shown in a red-striped one gallon can and a smaller size.

    The founder of the A.E. Staley Company, A. E. Staley Sr., died in 1940. The company was purchased in 1988 by Tate & Lyle.