Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Woman's Day Cooking for One" by Woman's Day magazine - Spanish Eggs and Rice - Celebrating International Women's Day

Date I made this recipe:  Wednesday, March 8, 2017 – International Women's Day

Woman's Day [magazine] Cooking for One – Edited by Jeri Laber
Published by Random House
© 1978
Purchased at the annual Bloomington Police Crime Prevention Association sale
Recipe:  Spanish Eggs and Rice – p. 218-219

Women around the world celebrated International Women's Day last week (March 8th), a "holiday" I knew nothing about but now do thanks to the internet.  And happily, I got enough advance notice such that I could find a cookbook and a recipe to make on time which is to say "on the day itself" and not my version of "on time" which puts us anywhere from a day to a week behind.  ("On-time" posting of the blog though, is another matter all together which is to say that today is March 23rd and I still haven't finished writing this blog post.  Sigh.)

Now some of you "youngsters" may not know about Woman's Day magazine or my play on words here, i.e. I'm cooking from a Woman's Day cookbook on [International] Women's Day, so I'm about to educate you.  It's what I do.

Per Wikipedia, Woman's Day magazine was launched in 1931 as an in-store ad for A&P grocery stores.   Some of you may not have heard of A&P, but we had one in my small hometown and I loved it.  To this day, I remain fascinated by the coffee grinder at the front register.  

By 1937, this in-store ad that included coupons and recipes, graduated to a magazine format although not the glossy publication we know and purchase today.  Like many women-oriented magazines of the time, Woman's Day focused on articles about housekeeping (helpful hints and suggestions), menus, fashion, and related women's topics.

What I found most interesting in investigating this magazine, is that it was part of the Seven Sisters[1] women's magazine group that included the following magazines:

  1. Good Housekeeping
  2. Better Homes and Gardens
  3. Family Circle
  4. Redbook
  5. Ladies Home Journal (no longer published)
  6. McCall's (no longer published)
  7. Woman's Day  

Growing up, my mother was an avid reader of and subscriber to, all of these except Redbook or to Better Homes and Gardens, and when she finished her magazines, I would read them.  Actually, I was often a magazine hog and leafed through the issue before she had a chance and of course, this irked her to no end.  Well, when you are a youngster with time on your hands like I had, as opposed to a mom with endless tasks on her to-do lists, you can do that.

One of my mom and my favorite magazines was Good Housekeeping, and when I was in 9th or 10th grade, I decided to be a journalist (that didn't quite happen) but secretly, I wanted to be a fiction editor at Good Housekeeping magazine.  Not a fiction writer, or even article writer, but a  fiction editor, emphasis on the "fiction," emphasis on the "editor. " You see, for many years, every issue of Good Housekeeping contained an excerpt from a famous novelist at the time and I loved reading those excerpts.  At one time, the magazine featured authors such as Pearl S. Buck, Arthur Hailey (who wrote the novel, Airport that was later spoofed in the movie, Airplane), and countless others who were famous at the time or about to be famous.  I thought it would be cool to have that job of selecting the fiction and then of course, deciding on the excerpted material.  Well, that and the fact that I loved me my red (editing) pencil!

Alas, once I got to college, I pretty much became an English Lit major, and then Good Housekeeping stopped excerpting novels and so there went that whole grand idea.  And honestly, my idea of being a journalist was more about admiring famous CBS News anchor, Walter Cronkite ("Uncle Walter"), and less about chasing a story down and writing about it.  Back then, women journalists were still few and far between, and forget about being an anchor, are you kidding?  As it is Barbara Walters had to fight like hell just to get to get herself a co-anchor spot on ABC News with Harry Reasoner which did not go well for her at all.  Happily for Barbara, she ended up making quite the name for herself in spite of it all, now didn't she?

Now I keep mentioning Good Housekeeping not just because it was my mom's favorite, but because my mother rarely ever felt compelled to speak her mind about anything unless it had something to do with her subscription renewals.  The issue was this:  Good Housekeeping, along with some of her other favorites, frequently charged long-time subscribers a higher subscription renewal rate than those just starting up a subscription with them.  And so when this happened, I always knew I would hear my mother, in her very tiny and very dainty voice say "Well, I'm going to give them a piece of my mind," which usually involved calling (back before 1-800-subscription services) or writing.  Let me tell you, that woman could pen a mean letter if she needed to and the thing is it worked every time.  Every time.  Of course, this makes me wonder why they didn't just flag my mother's account and stop the insanity ahead of time, but remember folks, this was pre-computers, pre-internet, pre-anything.

Fast forward to the here and now where as of late, I have found myself calling and complaining about the very same issue my mother experienced which is subscription renewal shenanigans. I've been a longtime subscriber to a certain magazine that shall remain nameless, and every single year, they send me a renewal notice for an amount that is almost twice the new subscriber rate.  This drives me absolutely up the wall and seems counterintuitive.  Magazines live, breathe, and die by subscribers, not one-and done-sales at bookstores or grocery stores.  So I decided "the hell with" this one magazine, refused pay my renewal and thought that would be the end of it.  But alas, reader, I just got a new issue in the mail and it said my subscription will expire in 2018, not 2017 so hmmm, I'm adopting a line from the movie, Young Frankenstein:  "Say nothing, act casual."

Before I move on to the topic at hand, I have just one memorable story about my mom and her magazines and it is my favorite and will stick with me forever.  (BTW, my mom passed away 9 years ago this week so she's top of mind.) When I was in high school (in the 70's), I had the requisite long hair, parted in the middle, and somewhat bushy eyebrows.  Not Frieda Kahlo eyebrows, but on the verge of heading in that direction. My mom was always nervous about me tweezing my brows because I had a scar from a close encounter with a wooden settee (small couch) when I was about two and she worried that if not done properly, the eyebrow would look like crap.  She was not wrong and so often talked about "having someone do that" for me.

And thanks to either Woman's Day, or Family Circle (I know not which), my mom got her wish and then some.  You see, we traveled every summer to visit relatives in NJ and NYC and my mother got the idea to write to both magazines, headquartered in NYC, to ask for suggestions for a salon/spa so I, and she, could get makeovers as part of my high school graduation present.  And so one fine June day, my mom and I, and an aunt went into the city, met up with an older cousin, Cousin Rose (from Brooklyn), and advanced on the Louis Guy D salon on E 57th street so we could get this party started, and reader, we had a blast.  The salon took before and after pictures of us and wow, they were stunning.  My unruly hair was cut and shaped for the first time in a long time (Pixie cuts do not count), my brows were tweezed, and we each got makeup that suited our complexion.  My aunt and cousin watched from the "gallery" and said later they wished they booked their own appointments.  And then when we were done, we ate lunch at The Magic Pan, the newest "it" place in the city.  Best.graduation.present.ever.

Now then, whereas mom enjoyed the magazines themselves, I rather like several of these magazines' cookbooks, of which I have several.  I have the 16-volume Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking and also the 12-volume Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cooking.  I also have a series of cookbooks from Better Homes and Gardens and Sunset Magazine, as well as a handful of the series of cookbook published by Southern Living Magazine.  I "inherited" a set of Good Housekeeping cookbooks from my mom, but have acquired also a few separate books from magazines such as Good Housekeeping, McCall's, Vogue, and Seventeen.  Believe it or not, I've managed to store them pretty close to each other on my shelves so as to comprise the "magazine" section of my collection.

Still, I hesitate to start making recipes from the "libraries" because once I go down that road, I feel like I have to cook from them all and so thus far, I've refrained.  I have no problem though, cooking from a "one-off" cookbook such as today's selection – Woman's Day Cooking for One.

For the record, I tried finding a Woman's Day crock pot cookbook that is somewhere on my shelves and failed.  It's there someplace, probably right in front of my eyes, but I couldn't find it in time so I defaulted to the Woman's Day Cooking for One cookbook.   This would have actually worked out great – a woman eating a dish on International Women's Day from a Woman's Day cookbook for one, but my husband was home that evening.  He isn't normally, but this week he was, and so I just doubled the recipe and so we had Spanish Eggs and Rice for two. He's very sympathetic to women's causes and so it was only fair to feed him.

Now this will not be the first or last time I point out to all of you that the year a book was published tells us much about history, sociology, anthropology and "cook-ology" which is to say "What foods were popular at the time, and why?"  This book is no exception which is why there are several recipes for "Frankfurters," as well as several options for hamburger.  I must say though, that the recipe for "Peanut Hamburger Balls" – p. 58 gave me pause, as did "Sardine-Onion-Egg Platter" – p. 168.  Were they popular at the time? Probably?  Economical?  Indeed.   Easy to Make?  To be sure! Tasty?  Debatable.

As tempting as the "Frankfurter" recipe selections were (mostly because they cracked me up), I thought that making one of those recipes was a copout (who can't boil a hotdog?) and so decided on the eggs and rice dish, the allegedly very easy rice dish which is to say that by the time I got through with it, it wasn't all that easy!

Here's the deal:  maybe it was the day, but nothing "set up" like it should and although the results weren't bad at all (in fact, quite good), I was mad at myself for just mucking up my own works.

First, I made the rice in my rice cooker and should have let it cool way down but didn't, and so it was a little hot and a little wet when I "built" the casserole, and as a result, it dried out a little in the oven and then became a tad crusty.  My suggestion to you is to make it up ahead if you can and if you can't, let it cool before going on to the next steps.

Next, I've come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of making a roux, a mixture of fat (usually butter) and flour.  It is supposed to thicken a sauce and it did, but once again (and probably for the 4th time in a row), it made the sauce too thick and so instead of "pouring" it as directed, I pretty much glopped it onto the eggs and rice.  Plus, I also think it takes away from the taste – not a lot, but just enough to irk me.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my next boo-boo and this one is back to being squarely on my shoulders and that is the near-disaster I had with the buttered bread crumbs.  In my attempt to move things along in my kitchen, I threw the bread crumbs and the butter in the same bowl, stirred, and then nuked it for about 30 seconds.  Color me dumb folks, because not only did the butter not coat the bread crumbs all the way, but the crumb/butter combination became napalm, such that when I tried to scrape the crumbs out of the bowl with my hand, I scorched it, although thankfully not a lot and not such that an ER visit was required.  Still, I remain embarrassed by that and the rice snafu, not to mention the sauce although I think I can be forgiven for the sauce since it was not my idea to make a roux to thicken it.  I don't generally "do" roux!

Finally, the dish was supposed to cook for 20 minutes which I think was just a bit too long.  The egg yolks were almost overdone just adding to my ire when I should have been relaxing. In fact, I probably should have had Andy cook this for me!  "But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln," we enjoyed it.   I might have let the sauce (without the roux) sit for a bit so the flavors could develop (there are a lot of good spices and seasonings in this dish) but that's a minor quibble.

Despite all my kitchen issues, you should make this, if only to overcome one woman's unexpected kitchen problems on International Woman's Day with Woman's Day.  Enjoy!

Spanish Eggs and Rice – serves 1 (easily doubled)
¼ cup uncooked rice (or ¾ cup cooked rice)
2 eggs
5 ounces canned tomatoes
½ small bay leaf
1 whole clove
¼ teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons butter  (Ann's Note:  I am not convinced you need this roux combination of butter and flour as it turned my sauce into near-paste but have no idea what it would be like if you left it out so proceed with caution!)
2 teaspoons flour (Ann's Note:  I am not convinced you need this roux combination of butter and flour as it turned my sauce into near-paste but have no idea what it would be like if you left it out so proceed with caution!)
1/3 cup buttered bread crumbs
2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cook the rice and drain it.  (Or, use already-cooked rice.)  Put it in a shallow baking dish.  Make 2 indentations in the rice and break an egg into each.

Combine in a saucepan the tomatoes, onion, bay leaf, clove, sugar, pepper, salt, celery seed, paprika and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.

(Ann's Note:  Here are the actual instructions but see below for my suggestions and observations.) Melt the butter in a small pan, then blend in the flour and cook over low heat, stirring for 2 minutes.  Strain the tomato mixture into the butter-flour mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened.  Pour over the eggs and rice.  Mix the crumbs and cheese together and sprinkle them over the contents of the baking dish.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  (Ann's Note, part 2:  I followed these directions to the letter but the sauce was too thick to pour, likely as a direct result of the roux mixture of butter and flour.  If I had to make this again, I think I would skip that part so as to enjoy the flavor of the sauce itself, without enhancements.  Also, 20 minutes was just a tad long and so check it at 10 minutes and see what you think.) 

[1] Magazines aren't the only famous "Seven Sisters."  The following famous women's colleges have enjoyed the status of that name for years and years: Mount Holyoke College; Vassar College (now co-ed); Wellesley College; Smith College; Radcliff College ("sister" school to Harvard); Bryn Mawr College, and Barnard College ("sister" school to Columbia University).

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