August 22, 2008

California Figs

Will my fig tree ever produce anything that looks even remotely as nice as these I saw at a farmer's market in San Francisco?

Or the ones shown in these brochures from the California Fig Advisory Board?

I can only hope.

Although I don't normally like to mess with the flavor of fresh, unadorned oysters on the half shell, this recipe sounds tempting and looks even better in the brochure photo.


Fig Mignonette
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, or substitute red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. dry sherry vinegar
4 large shallots, finely minced
Juice and finely minced zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup finely chopped reconstituted California dried figs

Rock salt, for garnish
36 oysters, freshly shucked, on the half shell
4 lemons each cut into 6 wedges
Fresh dill, for garnish

For the mignonette, stir all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and let stand for 30 minutes or overnight.

Arrange rock salt on a platter or on small plates. Top the oysters with the mignonette, arrange on the platter with lemon wedges (or serve lemons in a bowl on the side) and garnish with pieces of dill.

Yield: 36 oysters with mignonette

I like oatmeal cookies and this recipe offers a nice variation:


1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup dried California figs, stems removed and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine honey, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed until well blended. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.

Sift together flour and baking soda. Add flour and baking soda, mixing just long enough to combine. Fold in rolled oats and chopped figs.

Wrap mixture with plastic wrap, roll into a log approximately 12 inches long, and refrigerate until firm. Once firm, cut into 12 equal pieces. Reduce heat to 325°F. Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Yields 1 dozen 3-inch cookies.

You can find more recipes on the California Fig Institute website. Or contact them like I did and ask them to send you some recipe brochures.

They also sent me a copy of another brochure, Fast & Fun Recipes featuring Fresh Figs (not dated, 6 pp.) which says that you you can freeze figs. I never thought about doing that before.


One cup of sugar to 5 cups of sliced or cut up figs give the best results. First chill figs to make them easy to peel (if you wish to peel them). Slice and mix with sugar thoroughly and then quick freeze. If you would rather use sugar syrup for freezing figs, use 1 quart water to 1 cup sugar in making syrup. Chill before pouring over figs. Leave 1 to 1-1/2-inch head space for fruits packed in syrup.

August 16, 2008

Betty Crocker Junior Baking Book

It's been almost a year since we last looked at a cookbook that was associated with a vintage children's toy.

Betty Crocker's Junior Baking Book (1953, 16 pages) is a small softcover cookbook that came with the Betty Crocker Junior Baking Kit. There were several Betty Crocker Junior Baking Kits produced and I believe this was the first one. You can see pictures of the different kits here (you have to scroll down the page a bit).

According to Susan Marks in Finding Betty Crocker, the baking kit was reintroduced after General Mills purchased Kenner and its Easy-Bake Oven line in 1968.

Ruthie and Jack are the names of the children in the cookbook--they look just like the kids in the school readers of that era.

The kit came with quite a variety of junior-size baking tools: a mixing bowl, cooky sheet, two layer cake pans, a cupcake pan, pie pan, cooky cutters, biscuit cutter, measuring cup, mixing spoon, bowl scraper, spatula, teaspoon, pastry cloth, rolling pin and a o-cel-o sponge. These were the nice metal toys of yesteryear, much nicer than the plastic ones in the baking set being manufactured today. Miniature junior cake mixes and other junior baking mixes were also included with the kit.

There were six metal cookie cutters (made by Mirro) in the shapes of a rabbit, chicken, lion, cat, horse and dog. The biscuit cutter could also double as a cookie cutter.

Betty Crocker Junior Cake Mixes came in these flavors: Devil's Food, White, Yellow and Spice. Each box of cake mix weighed 3.5 ounces.

There were four flavors of Betty Crocker Junior Frosting Mixes, Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Malt, Peanut Butter and White, which came in 2 ounce boxes.

There was also a Betty Crocker Junior Brownie Mix (1.7 ounces), a Betty Crocker Junior Ginger Cooky Mix (1.4 ounces), Bisquick Junior Biscuit Mix (1.7 ounces) and a Betty Crocker Junior Pie Crust Mix (2.2 ounces).

The instructions are simple and each step is illustrated with a drawing. It is recommended in each recipe that Mother turn on the oven.

The Ginger Cooky Mix is used to make Animal Cookies.

General Mills was busy establishing brand loyalty in young children way back in 1953. The rear cover says "Soon you'll be baking with all these grown-up mixes" and it shows pictures of nine different regular-size Betty Crocker cake and baking mixes that were available back then.

August 15, 2008

Recipes in a Chick Lit Package

I opened the mail the other day and found this little cookbook I had ordered from the Pork Checkoff website.

The cover of Grill Power: A Girl's Guide to Grilling (2005, 16 pages) looks suspiciously similar to all the covers on those chick lit books currently overpopulating the shelves at the bookstores and libraries.

I've tried to like that genre, I really have. I've made my way through several different titles and authors, but have never found any that really appealed to me other than The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries (and to be fair, I enjoyed the books much more than the film versions). Eventually I just quit picking them up at all.

The interior pages of this booklet are decorated in the same pastel colors as the cover. Each of the five recipes are shown in full color. There are several small cutesy illustrations relating to the grill. The recipe booklet provides tips, techniques and all the information one might need if attempting to grill food outdoors for the first time or looking to brush-up on the basics. I like the spiral binding and the feel of the slightly weighty, laminated pages. It's a very nice looking booklet, especially for a freebie.

I wonder if this cookbook was purposely designed to appeal to those same people who read/buy chick lit?

The recipes themselves are decidedly contemporary and sound doable without too much fuss. Never mind that some of the recipe names sound kind of silly: Fast-off-the-Grill Chorizo Quesadillas, Grilled New Potato Salad with Bacon and Scallions, Breezy and Easy Marinated Pork Tenderloin, BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Spicy Girls' Dry Rub and Mop Sauce, Carmel Frozen Yogurt Pie with Grilled Peaches.

Recipes aside, some of the other copy inside leaves me feeling a bit confused as to whether I'm in the year 2008 or 1959. There's quite a contrast between the two cultures and to me, they seem to be oddly intermingled within this cookbook. Imagine if the women on Mad Men were hanging out with the ones on Army Wives. It's a bit like that.

Ladies everywhere are stepping out of the kitchen and onto the patio to conquer one of America's favorite cooking techniques: grilling.

Ladies, grilling is no longer just for gentlemen.

Did I miss something? Although the 1950s definitely had the men in charge of the grill, I thought women had long ago figured out they were capable of more than being providers of the baked beans and potato salad. I thought this sort of thing was settled already.

More things I never expected to read in 2008:

Boys Allowed Too - While women across the country are catching "grill fever," men have not abandoned their grilling tongs.

Who says you need to leave the house for girl's night out?

Mixed in is this more modern lingo:

Simply gather round the grill with your girlfriends. We know how essential it is to host the perfect party for your galpals...

Add style to your outdoor space.

You Go, Girl!

Low-Fat and Fabulous

... moms everywhere can turn to the grill for a variety of mouth-watering flavors at mealtime ... Include your family's input when deciding what to serve each night to be certain they're satisfied, and we guarantee you'll be one hot mamma!

All in all, it's an interesting little cookbook just because of the confusion it creates in my mind.

For those who might think I'm missing out on some good fiction due to my mental block about the book covers--perhaps you're right. If so, I'll discover the good stuff eventually. If the titles are worth reprinting, the covers will be redone too. Maybe I'll like those better.