August 31, 2007

Ranch Dressing, Please

The advertising cookbook shown today isn't really old but it features one of my favorite products. Ranch salad dressing mix. I'm making salad for lunch today, so perhaps that's why I chose it.

Hidden Valley Ranch Inspired Family Favorites (1998, 20 pp.) is a collection of recipes that all use a single package of Hidden Valley Original Ranch salad dressing mix to add a twist to your favorite recipes.

Remember when the iceberg lettuce wedges were the standard salad fare in restaurants? I recall only four choices of dressing ever available: Thousand Island, French, Oil and Vinegar and Bleu Cheese. Blech on the dressings and double blech on the lettuce wedges. I tried to order things that didn't come with a salad so I wouldn't have to eat them.

Things improved. I remember when Pizza Hut began offering Creamy Italian as a choice on their salad bar--a step up from the boring four in my opinion, but rather nasty when I think about it now.

Thinking about salad makes me recall the many afternoons spent with my friends in our sophmore and junior years of high school. We gathered to play endless games of Hearts and Gin Rummy at the apartment of one friend whose mother was at work.

We usually prepared one of two regular snacks, either plain tunafish sandwiches with big thick onion slices or a salad. We chopped up a variety of salad ingredients into miniscule little pieces and slathered them with Seven Seas Green Goddess dressing. Yum. Time intensive, chopping up all those vegetables into tiny, uniform squares, but we thought we were pretty grown up, fixing salad OUR way. It was a long time before I finally stopped all that chopping business.

The Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing mixes were great. Originally there was only one mix available, which called for buttermilk. I was relieved when they came out with the mix that used plain milk. Buttermilk was never a staple in my kitchen and I usually only bought it for the salad dressing. And I usually forgot and had to make an exra trip to the store. Now, I always have milk and I always have mayo, so I always have salad dressing.

Nothing tastes as good to me on a salad as a freshly mixed batch of Ranch Dressing. Forget about the bottled Ranch, it's not the same. There are lots of great choices for salad dressings available now, but HVR is still my regular stand-by.

I've seen some of the recipes in this booklet in magazine advertisements, in community cookbooks, and have eaten some of them at potluck gatherings and such. Ranch Snack Mix, Roasted Nuts from Hidden Valley, Original Ranch Oyster Crackers, Original Rach Dip, Ranch Mashed Potatoes are some of the ones I've seen in the ads. They make a pretty good cheese ball or cheese log, certainly more tasty and less expensive than those prepackaged ones you find at the supermarket.

Others recipes that seem worth considering and that appeal to my appetite are the Roasted Red Pepper Spread, the Potato Skins, the Hidden Valley Potato Salad, the Hash Brown Bake, the Original Ranch Crispy Chicken and the Original Ranch Pork Chops.

Not to my taste, but maybe to yours: Hidden Valley Glazed Baby Carrots, Burrito Wraps, Tuna Skillet Supper, Original Ranch Beef and Noodle Skillet and the Chopstick Chicken Salad. There are others, thirty-nine in all.

Illustrated with tasty color photos and all recipes conveniently located in one little booklet. I like that.


1 packet (1 oz.) Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing Mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
24 chicken drummettes (about 2 pounds)

Combine dressing mix in oil in large bowl. Add drummettes; toss well to coat. Arrange on rack placed in foil-lined baking pan; bake at 425 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Tur drummettes over; bake additional 20 minutes. Makes 24 drummettes.

Spicy Hot Variation: Add 2 tablespoons red pepper sauce to dressing mixture before cooking.

Serve with prepared HVR salad dressing.

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August 30, 2007

Miss Hulling's Mac 'n Cheese

Upon first glance, Prize Winning Recipes (1960, 32 pp.), a small recipe booklet published by American Beauty Macaroni and the Durum Wheat Institute, looks like nothing much more than a collection of macaroni and pasta recipes.

There are several pages devoted to the nutritional value and proper cooking methods of durum macaroni foods. Durum is a special variety of wheat used in producing pasta. The booklet explains that macaroni products made from durum retain their shape and firmness while cooking and do not leave a starchy residue in the cooking water. They say that it resists the common tendency of non-durum products to cook up mushy.

These recipes have been designated as "restaurant-tested" for your home which, I guess, is supposed to make them more appealing to homemakers.

These recipes came from well-known restaurant or quantity food service kitchens and were collected by Miss Albert M. MacFarlane, a food consultant. A first presentation of the series was made at the annual Food Show of the National Restaurant Association in Chicago. Then, family-size versions were developed in the test kitchens of the Durum Wheat Institute. These family-size versions are the ones you will find in this booklet.

It's the fine print of the captions underneath the photos that makes the booklet intesting. Looking closely you will find that some of these prize-winning recipes were from establishments well-known for their great food. Many of them are no longer here, lost to the passage of time and a proliferation of McRestaurants. Whether or not any of these dishes ever made it to the restaurant dining rooms, I don't know, but a chef is a chef, and their creative talents are usually evident in whatever recipes they come up with.

Here are a couple of recipes from places that you might find familiar:

The first is a contribution from Florence Hulling Apted of Miss Hulling's Cafeterias in St. Louis, Missouri. The Miss Hulling's Cafeterias are gone now, but many people still seek out Miss Hulling's recipes. Is this dish reminiscent of one served in her cafeterias? I don't know, but it's the way I prefer to prepare my own mac 'n cheese--with cheese in the sauce as well as a generous amount melted over the top.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup enriched flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
8 ounces elbow macaroni
1-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Melt butter in large saucepan. Blend in flour and salt. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly; cook until sauce is thickened. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese and stir until melted. Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Add to Cheese Saue and mix well. sprinkle top with 1-1/2 cups grated cheese. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees F.) about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place under broiler until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The next recipe comes from The Parker House in Boston, Massachusetts. You know the place--the one that's famous for their Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie.

2 cups lobster meat (2 cans, 6 ounces each)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup enriched flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2-1/2 teaspoons paprika
3-1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sherry wine
8 ounces elbow macaroni
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup melted butter

Cut lobster meat in small pieces. Saute in 1/4 cup butter. For sauce, melt 1/3 cup butter or margarine in large saucepan. Blend in flour, salt, papper and paprika. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly; cook until thickened. Add lobster meat and sherry wine. Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Add macaroni to lobster mixture. Turn into lightly greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese. Pour 1/4 cup melted butter over top of casserole. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted and delicately browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

It's shown in the picture served with a Parker House Roll and a mixed green salad.

Other recipes and places found in the booklet are:

Mexican Macaroni Casserole: prepared by Alma B. Atkinson - Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY
Casserole of Ham, Macaroni and Broccoli: as prepared by Patricia A. Beezley, Pennant Cafeteria, Topeka, Kansas
Creole Spaghetti Stew: as prepared by Margaret E. Terrell, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Baked Chicken and Noodle Casserole: as prepared by Gertrude Allison Brewster, Olney Inn, Olney, Maryland
Casserole of Noodles, Chopped Steak and Tomatoes: as prepared by Beatrice Hughes Hofsommer, the Harding Restaurants, Chicago, IL
Baked Salmon and Shell Macaroni Au Gratin: as prepared by Annabel Combs, Damon's, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mexican Spaghetti: as prepared by Ruby Clark, Department of Institution Management, Purdue University, Lafayette, IN
Macaroni Loaf: as prepard by Winning S. Pendergast, School Lunchrooms, Detroit Public Schools, Detroit, MI
Macaroni Salad: as prepared by Gertrude Brammer, L.S. Ayres & Company, Indianapolis, IN
Casserole of Chicken Kalakaua with Macaroni: as prepared by Executive Chef Paul Koy, Royal Hawaiian, Honolulu, Hawaii
Spaghetti Supreme with Mushroom Sauce: as prepard by Raph B. Smith, The Grace E. Smith Company, Toledo, Ohio
Spicy Oyster-Spaghetti Casserole: as prepared by Chef Bramon, Netherland Hilton Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
Chicken, Mushrooms and Noodles with White Wine Sauce: as prepared by Chef Bramon, Netherland Hilton Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
Casserole of Seafood and Noodles Au Gratin: as prepared by Louise Nabel, Frances Virginia Tea Room, Atlanta, Georgia
Noodle and Chicken Campanini en Casserole: as prepared by Armando's Restaurant, Chicago, IL
Chicken Livers Hunter Style with Buttered Noodles Polonaise: as prepared by Chef Diciero, Terrace Hilton Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
Spaghetti with Clam Sauce: as prepared by Vincent and Tony Bommarito, Tony's, St. Louis, Missouri
Spaghetti Tetrazzini Armando: as prepared by Armamdo's Restaurant, Chicago, IL
Angelo's Italian Spaghetti with Meat Balls: as prepared by Angelo Arata, Angelo's Restaurant, Concord, New Hampshire
Spaghetti Tetrazzini Mayfair: as prepared by Erice Nielsen, Hotel Mayfair, St. Louis, Missouri
Spaghetti Marinara: as prepared by Vincent and Tony Bommarito, Tony's, St. Louis, Missouri
Veal Lasagne: as prepared by Leila Colwell, Evanston Hospital, Evanston, IL
Mostaccioli with Rich Tomato Sauce: as prepared by Armando's Restaurant, Chicago, IL

If you think you might like a copy of this booklet for yourself, you can probably find one here.

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August 24, 2007

Food Company Newsletters

Today, many brand name food companies offer electronic newsletters that you can sign up for on their websites. These are delivered to your email inbox on a periodic basis. Most are monthly or quarterly. I receive several myself and have found that sometimes it pays to belong to their newsletter mailing list because you find out about special offers and promotions that aren't offered otherwise.

One of the newsletters that I receive is sweetalk, the newsletter from the folks who make Imperial Sugar and Dixie Crystals products. Last month they said that they had found an old box of recipe brochures while rearranging their offices. They offered one of the booklets to the first 400 who emailed.

Lucky me, I was one of the 400. I recently received a copy of Texas Recipes from Texas Places - Volume III (1980, 32 pp) in my real mailbox out on the curb. Thanks Angela!
So go look at your favorite brand name websites and see if they have a newsletter you can sign up for. A handy index of the food company website addresses can be found here.

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August 05, 2007

Recipes with Picante Sauce

I don't consider myself a hot sauce or salsa addict, nor am I in any way, shape or form a chile expert. I haven't tried every single commercial hot sauce of the thousands available on the market. I've got my own personal preferences about this perfect food group and I must confess that most of my favorites are of the homemade, whipped-up-in-the-kitchen-this-morning variety. If I don't feel like making it myself, I can easily bring home a quart or so from the restaurant that makes one I do like.

I must also confess that the brand featured in the cookbook here today is not even on my list of those that I even mildly like. However, I know that there are many, many people who do like and enjoy this brand, and that tons of it is probably shipped out and served at many restaurants nationwide every day. The fact is, a favorite hot sauce choice comes down to personal preference.

I think the folks who do enjoy the Pace brand will find the Pace Picante Sauce 40th Anniversary Recipe Collection (1987, 158 pp.) to be very much to their liking. Heck, I like the cookbook, even if I don't really care for their sauce.

Maybe you're wondering how I can like the cookbook if I don't particularly like the brand name product that's featured in every one of the recipes.

Firstly, I like the look of the book. It has a glossy, black hard cover with bright red, white and yellow lettering and graphics. There's a photograph of a spread of Tex-Mex on the front that looks pretty good. This copy is spiral bound, with the wire spiral hidden inside which makes it lie perfectly flat when you have it open. It has a lot more of those taste tempting photogaphs inside. The pages are slick and glossy too, with the recipe titles in red and the recipes in black text. It's, well, cheerful. The presentation is good.

Secondly, it has a lot of recipes (I quit counting at 200) in a variety of categories--Appetizers, Soups and Stews, Main Dishes, Grilling, Side Dishes and Salads and even some menu suggestions in case I were stumped on what to serve with what.

I believe the recipe ingredients can be easily found in most supermarkets no matter where you live. Perhaps even more so today than 20 years ago when this book was first published. Depending on where you live and what you normally cook, many of these ingredients might already be staples in your kitchen.

While the recipe directions are not exactly of the numbered step-by-step variety, they are concise, complete, and easy to follow. I think even a novice cook could successfully prepare all of the recipes, which means it's just that much easier for experienced cooks.

I may not use this brand of sauce, but I can substitute a brand I do like better in place of theirs in the recipe. I can use the recipes in their book for inspiration. I can modify the recipes to suit my own purposes.

And of course, as all cookbook collectors and gatherers know, one doesn't necessarily have cookbooks around the house just to use for cooking. Sometimes we just have them around just to read.

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August 03, 2007

Martini Anyone?

I went on my twice weekly trip to the liquor store today where I scored a couple of new recipe-related things.

A bit of background: Nobody imbibes in our household, so the only reason we go to the liquor store is to get ice. We need ice because we do drink a ton of iced tea. We need ice because we don't have an icemaker AND because I can't stand the ice trays that Wal-Mart and other places sell these days.

The ice trays I see available don't stack properly without having to alternate the ends. Plus and Minus. Failure to implement Plus and Minus correctly results in the trays just sinking down inside one another, displacing the water to places where you don't want it. A total pain--ice trays used to stack without anybody having to think about or pay attention to this Plus and Minus business. I am not programmed to think about it. So I was continually spashing water all over the freezer and having to clean it up then refill the trays AGAIN. It's just easier to go around the corner to Reba's.

More background: Our ancient GE Refrigerator runs like the Energizer Bunny (except for the icemaker). We haven't replaced it yet because I'm afraid to. I'm afraid to because the other, new, GE appliances have already broken--said appliances would include the gas range (a ruined Christmas), the Spacemaker Microwave (it does work as a nightlight) and the dishwasher (which leaks on the fairly-new floor). So until I can get these brand trust issues sorted out, we contend with the old Energizer Bunny, the ice situation and the other (evidently made-to-be-disposable) appliances.

Today: I went inside instead of driving through so that I could see if there were any new recipe pamphlets on the counter. Even though I never buy liquor, they don't seem to mind that I always take the recipes.
I got a cheerful, tropical-looking foldout, Malibu Rum Recipes (2006) with directions for Kamikazes, Margaritas and Martinis made with Mango (I'll pass), Passion Fruit (pass again), Coconut and Pineapple-flavored rums. The clerk rather quickly said "You want recipes?" and tried to hand me what looked like a small disc. I didn't want a disc because I want my recipes on paper, not plastic, but she persisted and so I brought it on home. The manager winked and said "don't look at the pictures."

The outside label looks rather plain, so I thought perhaps it was something they had put together themselves for their customers (and what kind of pictures? I wondered--is he talking about what I think he's talking about?).

Turns out it was a nice little 3-inch CD, Mix it Up! 8,406 Martini Recipes (Version 6) from Van Gogh Vodka. The CD contains a database with over 8,400 Martini recipes. You can run it directly from the CD or install the program on your hard drive. If you choose to install, you have the capability to save new recipes, compile selected recipes or print one or all of them out on paper. It has a nice bar type menu, tells you how to make a martini and gives Vodka Ratings.

Pretty nifty little deal, even if it isn't on paper. (I am fond of databases.)

Oh yeah....there weren't any pictures.

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August 02, 2007

Cookbook Triple Play

Wherever I go, I cannot resist picking up the cookbooks. I may not take them all home with me, but I ALWAYS look at them. After the food company cookbooks, some of my other favorite types are regional and fundraising cookbooks.

The other day, while on my way home from borrowing a pressure cooker from my dad, I picked up what looked to be a Tennessee regional cookbook at the Bellville General Hospital Ladies Auxiliary Resale Shop. (Ladies, I do like your shop, but I sure miss the annual Rummage Sale and the two week pre-sale of all the books! We don't have nearly enough Rummage Sales here in Texas.)

The Etowah Cook Book (1945, 62 pp.) is a collection of favorite recipes that were collected and compiled by the Ladies Auxiliary to The Order of Railway Conductors.

It's like many others of the same ilk--it contains recipes popular during that particular time period, from that particular area, and the names of the recipe contributors. Also like so many other older fundraiser and community cookbooks, there is a notable lack of illustrations.

While looking through the book a bit more thoroughly after I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find several small advertisements for JFG Special Coffee and J. Allen Smith's White Lily Flour. Since Etowah is located in McMinn County, Tennessee, it's not surprising that two of the (sponsor?) ads in the cookbook are for Tennessee-produced products. Like so many other humble food companies of the past, these two brands are now owned by mega corporations, Reily Foods and J M Smucker, respectively.

I was surprised, however, to find the ads there at all. And while the majority of the recipes call for generic ingredients, there are recipes for White Lily Buttermilk Biscuits, White Lily Self-Rising Biscuits and White Lily Baking Powder Biscuits. No recipes using JFG coffee though, but the company slogan is there: "JFG Special Coffee -- The Best Part of the Meal".

This cookbook also has a nod towards the World War II sugar rationing, something many U.S. housewives had to contend with in the years leading up to the publication of this book. There is a small section in the Cake category that addresses this situation:

Sugar Saving Tips from White Lily Flour

In home baking, delightful cakes, cookies and other good things can be made
using sweeteners other than sugar. Molasses, sorghum, honey, light and dark corn
sirup*, and maple sirup are available and are excellent substitutes.

All of these sweeteners contain some water since they are in liquid or "sirupy" form. Therefore a few changes in recipes must be made when these are used. Cut out these rules and past them in your recipe book:

1. Never substitute other sweeteners for all sugar in baking recipes. Equal parts of sugar and other sweetener gives excellent results. One-fourth sugar and three-fourths other
sweetener gives good results.
2. When using molasses or sorghum, reduce liquid one-fourth cup for each cup of molasses or sorghum used. Allow 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of molasses or sorghum.
3. When using honey, reduce liquid 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used. Use slightly lower oven temperatures to prevent oven-browning.
4. When using corn sirup, reduce liquid 1/4 cup for each cup of corn sirup used. Light corn sirup is better for light cakes, breads and cookies. Dark corn sirup is good in spice and other dark cakes, cookies and breads.
* (as spelled in the book)

So even though this book was not published specifically as a promotional item by a food company, I can rationalize and fit it into my advertising cookbook realm. After all, it DOES have those three brand-specific recipes. And I'll stretch it further and consider it to be somewhat of a wartime cookbook, as it does have suggestions to compensate for the shortage of sugar.

A triple play. I like that. (I am so easily amused.)

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