Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook - 100th Anniversary" - Garden Macaroni Salad for Flag Day

Date I made this recipe:  June 14, 2015 – Flag Day!

The Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook – 100th anniversary by The Kraft Kitchens, Consumer Affairs Department
Published by:  Kraft, Inc.
© 1981
Purchased at BCPA – Bloomington Crime Prevention Association – annual book sale, June 2015
Recipe:  Garden Macaroni Salad – p. 45

Yesterday was Flag Day and I know you all know this because your calendar likely told you so.  And this is a good thing because otherwise, many a holiday would fly under the radar, unnoticed by one and all.

Andy and I don't have a flag to fly for the occasion (my parents did though, and I think at last count when I cleaned out their house was four – impressive!), but in my book, we had the next best thing:  a Philadelphia cookbook, from Philadelphia Cream Cheese, to honor the only, the only, the flag-sewer herself, Betsy Ross who hailed from Philadelphia. 

I sincerely hope that high school history classes cover Betsy Ross and her flag, but in case they didn't, here's a little tutorial:  Betsy (Elizabeth) Griscom, born January 1, 1752 in Philadelphia, died January 30, 1836, in Philadelphia, is credited with creating the American flag although according to Wikipedia, no concrete proof exists to show she did.  Well, let's just give her the benefit of the doubt, shall we?  I mean, we can look out our windows and see flags everywhere so somebody figured out how to sew them and if not Betsy, then who?  Exactly.

Surprisingly, Betsy was married three times  and whoa! -  I do not recall getting this information in any of my history classes! Husband number one was John Ross – thus her last name – and their marriage turned out to be controversial in that she was a Quaker and he was an Anglican.  The Quaker religion did not want its members marrying outside the Quaker faith and she was expelled from her family and her friends.  Seems a tad harsh but she got the last laugh when she and John Ross started and ran upholstery business which is how she likely acquired her valuable sewing skills. (By the way, I could not type "John Ross" without inserting the last name of "Ewing" from the TV show, Dallas. I can't help it, my brain just goes there.)

After John Ross died in 1776, she married husband number two, Joseph Ashburn, but alas, he died in 1782.  So onto husband number three she went, John Claypool, who managed to last 34 years with Betsy before dying in 1817.  Good heavens.  Betsy though, lived until the ripe old age of 84, and so thank goodness for that!  Men did not fare all that well in the early years of this country's founding.  (The source for most of this information came from

As to the flag, it was rumored to have been created after a visit by George Washington, or at least that's the story that's told at the Betsy Ross house in Philly.  Hey, it works for me.

Given that I seem to have a cookbook to mark every occasion, I am sad to report that I didn't have anything for flag day nor did I have – like I thought I had – a Philadelphia cookbook.  I could have sworn that I had one from the Philadelphia Museum of Art but it turns out the cookbook was from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Well – oh-so-close, am I right?  

Left without a good, bona fide source, I turned to Martha Stewart, who had she been alive at the time, might have instructed Betsy on how to sew the flag together because Martha is like that you know.  In fact, Martha has probably sewn her own flag, but only after dyeing the fabric she probably wove with her own two hands into red, white and blue, using fruits like raspberries and blueberries grown on her property in Maine.  Actually, I am sure she would have left the "white" fabric alone as that is how it would have been done back then and our Martha is a stickler for detail. 

Anyway, the best recipes I could find befitting a Flag Day observance were from Martha's American Food cookbook (as yet unused) .  Up for consideration was a Chicken Pot Pie (very colonial) as well as a Mile-High Apple Pie (very American) but the making of each of these would have had me in the kitchen for days on end and so I passed.  I mean, not to whine, but for the pot pie, I would have had to capture and pluck a chicken cook the chicken separately and then all the vegetables separately and then make a crust separately and...and...and....zzzzzz.  Same with the pie; silly Martha wanted me to peel 5 freaking pounds of apples for this mile-high pie.  I should think not.  Still, it was my only hope until....

...I spied The Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook I had set aside for the 4th of July.  Screw that!  We needed a Flag Day-related recipe and we needed it now.  This was a Code Red if we ever saw one.  And so I made the Garden Macaroni Salad recipe on Flag Day, bought a rotisserie chicken from Kowalski's to go with it and ta da – dinner!

Now if you've read my last two blogs, you are probably thinking that I was all kinds of crazy to make yet another dish with cream cheese but folks, the third time was the charm.  This was easy and delicious.  And although I had my heart set on making this salad, everything else in the book looked awesome, most especially, and I know you will laugh, the Frosted Sandwich Loaf found on p. 35.  I remember seeing these sandwiches in many a cookbook while I was growing up and loved them because they were just so pretty!  My mom may have made them for a bridge party once or twice although I can't recall for sure.  Yet another mystery – like Betsy Ross' flag-making – that will go unsolved.

I don't think you can go wrong with any recipe in this book – well, except for Peppermint Cheesecake (p. 124) but that's because I hate peppermint – but I will surely double back come the holiday season to make some of the cookies and bars for my annual holiday party – yum!

So here you go and unless I find another Flag Day-related cookbook for next year, this may be it folks so make it and enjoy it!

Garden Macaroni Salad – 6 to 8 servings
2 cups (7 oz.) elbow macaroni, cooked, drained
1 cup chopped cucumber
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup radish slices
2 tablespoons chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 8-oz. pkg. Philadelphia Brand cream cheese
¼ cup Kraft mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon Kraft Prepared mustard

Combine macaroni, cucumber, green pepper, radishes, onion and salt; mix well.  Combine softened cream cheese and remaining ingredients, mixing until well blended.  Add to macaroni mixture; mix lightly.  Spoon and gently press into lightly oiled 6-1/2 cup ring mold; chill several hours or overnight.  Unmold onto serving plate.  Garnish with cucumber slices and radish roses, if desired.  Variation: Substitute lightly oiled 9-inch springform pan with ring insert for ring mold.*

*Ann's Note:  Or, you could pull out the ring mold, in this case my mother's, look at it, decide it's too much work to oil (!) and just leave the macaroni mixture in the bowl you mixed it in. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Pig Out with Peg - Secrets from the Bundy Family Kitchen" - Middle Age Spread (shrimp spread)

Date I made these recipes:  June 8, 2015

Pig Out With Peg – Secrets from the Bundy Family Kitchen by Peg Bundy as told to Linda Merinoff
Published by:  Avon Books
ISBN: 0-380-76431-8
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Middle Age Spread – p. 56

Today's Random Thoughts on Recipes:

1)     I should have made the meatloaf.
2)     I realized I don't really like nutmeg.
3)     What have I ever done to cream cheese to make it hate me so much?
4)     It's a terrible day when your Cuisinart "turns" on you.

Ooof!  Folks, I am on a dangerous roll here.  The last few blog posts have included some very easy recipes and yet, if there is a way to screw them up, I seem to have found it.

Take the Jell-O recipe from the end of May.  The recipe said to add Jell-O to your smoothed out cream cheese but when I did it, the mixture got all chuncky as if I substituted cottage cheese instead.  I did not.  The taste was great but the appearance was not like the example in the photo.

Then today, I made this very easy shrimp dish.  I gathered all my ingredients, straight out of the refrigerator, threw them all, as directed, into the Cuisinart, and then pressed the "On" button.  I noticed that the cream cheese that I added got stuck and instead of just turning the machine off, I took two seconds out of my day to turn to grab a spatula to un-stick the cream cheese and boom – instant puree!  Waaaaaaaaa!  So instead of making a middle age spread, it seemed I inadvertently made a middle age dip.  But isn't that the way things go where your body is concerned?  One minute, it's all looking good and then next minute, gravity hits and it's all looking terrible and worse, it's all heading for the floor at the speed of light.

Which is why, I suppose, this makes this the perfect dish for our fictional Peg Bundy.

I never watched the TV show, Married with Children, but that didn't mean that I didn't keep track of things.  And so when I had the opportunity to snap up the cookbook, Pig Out With Peg [Bundy], I snapped it up.  And then all I needed was a reason to cook from it and...

...and on Memorial Day, I broke my self-imposed 12-year boycott of going to a movie theater (long story, best told over cocktails), and went with a friend to see Pitch Perfect 2.  I only got around to watching Pitch Perfect this winter, recording it on my DVR, and was amazed at how much I liked it.  Sometimes the movie hype is so high that I'm often left wondering why I bothered but luckily, this was not the case for this movie or the sequel.

At any rate, so there I was, in a theater at 10:10 a.m. (the first showing was at 9:30 but I refused to get up that early on a day off) for Pitch Perfect 2, and who appears on screen by "Peg Bundy," also known by her real name – Katey Sagal.  Katey plays the mother of a new "Bella" ( of "The Barden Bellas," the university's a cappella group) and appears at the beginning and end of the movie.  When I mentioned her appearance to my husband, he reminded me that she is a bona fide singer, having done backup vocals for Bette Midler as one of The Harlettes.  Well, that works for me! 

At any rate, the movie was – as the saying goes – "Aca Awesome!"  Once again, I set myself up for disappointment because sequels often do that to a gal, but this was funny.  And may I just say that the guest appearance by my Green Bay Packer's O Line (Offensive Line) was Oscar worthy?  It was.  Not that I'm biased or anything.

So while Pitch Perfect 2 (and Katey) were indeed awesome, the same cannot be said for this recipe for Middle Age Spread.  Sigh.  Where to begin?  How about with the first thing I said above:  I should have made the meatloaf.

A lot of recipes in this book sounded really good, including the meatloaf, but nooooooo, I just had to make this recipe for Middle Age Spread because, well, the name says it all and just cracked me up.  This should have been an easy-peasy recipe had it not been for the Cuisinart turning all evil on me.  Because "spread," the operative word in that recipe moniker, was not what happened when I switched on my Cuisinart.  Oh no—we're talking Middle Age "Dip."  Any resemblance of shrimp, an ingredient that should have stayed chucky, was gone.  And I tell you what, [working with] cream cheese is turning out to be like dealing with a little kid:  you turn your back on it for two seconds and all hell breaks loose, namely, the "liquidation" of my recipe.

And then there's the nutmeg issue and we need to discuss this because the more I look at this recipe, the more I am convinced that "Peg" meant to say something like add a teaspoon of "Old Bay Seasoning" or "Cajun seasonings" or something with a bit more zip.  Because nutmeg?  It does not go with shrimp.  In fact, the thought of the two together right now does not please me at all.  But I do have to give it credit for making me realize, all these years later, that nutmeg is not a good spice match for me.  I don't like the taste of it, much in the same way as I don't like Marjoram nor do I care for Tarragon.  So there – I have now hit the "spices I hate" trifecta.

So.  Were I do to this entire thing over again (not bloody likely), I would substitute that teaspoon of nutmeg for Old Bay or something more pleasing to my palate.  My husband liked this recipe but let me just put this out there:  he's a guy.  That's not to say that he doesn't have a discerning palate, he does, but in this case, we had to agree to disagree.  And this, of course, means all the more spread/dip for him, am I right?

Oh, and were I to make this again, you can bet your sweet bippy that I will not turn my back on my Cuisinart again.  Will not.

Middle Age Spread – Makes 2 ½ cups
½ pound cream cheese
3 cups cooked tiny shrimp (about 10 ounces)
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cream cheese, shrimp, sour cream, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and nutmeg into a blender.  *Sure you can use a food processor if you got yourself one for your husband's birthday.  Run the machine until everything's mixed but you still have specks of solid shrimp.  Add as much Tabasco, salt and pepper as you like.

*Funny she should mention gifts we got ourselves for our husband's birthday:  this year, my husband and I were in NYC for his birthday and of course, no trip would be complete without a stop at my favorite cookbook store, Bonnie Slotnick's.  Andy joked then "So how many cookbooks did Ann buy for your birthday, Andy?"  He knows me well.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"The New Joys of Jell-O" - Under-the-Sea-Pear-Salad - Celebrating the introduction of Jell-O to the marketplace

Date I made this recipe:  May 28, 2015 – the 118th anniversary of the introduction of Jell-O to the world!

The New Joys of Jell-O Brand Gelatin Dessert by General Foods Kitchen
Published by:  General Foods Corporation
©1973; 3rd edition 1975
Recipe:  Under-The-Sea Pear Salad – p. 69

Well was I excited or what?

According to  Food Network magazine's May culinary calendar showed that Jell-O was introduced to the world on May 28, 1897, a day that will live in infamy right along with Pearl Harbor Day.  That's 118 years of Jell-O salads, folks.  One hundred and eighteen years.

Faithful readers may recall that last summer, my husband, brother and sister-in-law visited the birthplace of Jell-O in LeRoy, NY.  My brother and sister-in-law live nearby and yet had never been – amazing, right?  After that visit, dubbed by my sister-in-law as "the trip of a lifetime," I just had to make a few Jell-O recipes from my collection.  And then of course, once I used those up, I had to replenish by Jell-O recipe book collection and found this one within days.  Remember, "There's always room for Jell-O."  (And by the by, the other day an ad for Jell-O aired and it was just like the days of old where they used to sing and spell out Jell-O:  "J-E-LL-O!"  I honestly needed a moment to compose myself after that.)

Just days before I made this dish, I talked to my Aunt Mary, who, at age 93, remembers well Jell-O's popularity.  Really, no table was complete without a Jell-O salad back in Jell-O's heyday and my mother's table was no exception.  I have and use, all of her fabulous Jell-O molds.  It's the gift that keeps on giving.

As to recipes, this book contains both sweet and savory Jell-O, and by savory I mean vegetables plus Jell-O and trust me when I say I have enjoyed both in my day.  You can find recipes for savory Jell-O throughout the book, like "Garden SoufflĂ© Salad" on p. 70; "Turkey-SoufflĂ© Salad," p. 71 and "Molded Vegetable Relish" on p. 99, just to name a few.  Mind you, I'm not exactly advocating that you make these (I can already see the look on some of your faces and it isn't pretty) but rather I'm just pointing out that you have options.  Jell-O is a very versatile product so why limit yourself to just the sweet stuff?

When it comes to sweets, Jell-O once again saves the day as you have recipes galore for Jell-O parfaits, Jell-O pies, and Jell-O salads like the one I made.  My mom made a version of this salad using cottage cheese instead of cream cheese and it was one of my favorites.  In fact, due to my own ineptitude at following directions, my cream cheese, which should have been softened until creamy, came out looking more like cottage cheese.  Perhaps I was channeling mother?

I loved this recipe and in fact, have probably eaten most of it.  My husband, Andy, doesn't mind Jell-O but I don't think his family embraced it like mine did and so it wouldn't occur to him to just have a small bowl of it to finish it up.  Thankfully, I am more than up to the task of polishing it off.  In fact, when we got a turkey dinner takeout from one of our favorite restaurants the other day, it almost made me cry to pull out my Jell-O creation as it was just the thing to go with a Thanksgiving meal.  I should talk to Key's Cafe about this combination....

So here you go, a quick and easy recipe for J-E-LL-O!  Enjoy.

Under-The-Sea Pear Salad – makes about 3 ½ cups or 6 servings
I can (16 oz.) pear halves in syrup
1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O Lime Gelatin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 packages (3 oz. each) cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon ginger

Drain pears, reserving ¾ cup of the syrup.  Coarsely dice pears and set aside.  Dissolve gelatin and salt in boiling water.  Add pear syrup and lemon juice.  Measure 1 ¼ cups into an 8x4-inch loaf pan or a 4-cup mold.  Chill until set, but not firm – about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, soften cheese until creamy.  Very slowly blend in remaining gelatin, beating until smooth.  Blend in ginger.  Stir in pears.  Spoon over set gelatin in pan.  Chill until firm – about 4 hours.  Unmold and garnish with chicory or watercress.  Serve with mayonnaise, if desired.  Makes about 3 ½ cups or 6 servings.  Note:  Recipe may be doubled, using a 9x5-inch loaf pan.