1960s Casserole Magic

Playtime in the 1960s! I'm on the left.

Playtime in the 1960s! I’m on the left.

Casseroles built on cream of mushroom soup fed many families in the 1960s, when canned goods seemed ever so much more modern than cooking from scratch. The 1961 top seller, the Better Homes & Gardens Casserole Cook Book, put a lid on every imaginable medley of vegetables and meat, and called it dinner.

I adapted this 1967 recipe from the international cookbook from William H. Ray, the elementary school I attended in Chicago. What mod, striped pants I wore back in the day! I’m not sure what country this recipe represents, nor Don’s identity (certainly not Draper!)), but I chose it because it sounded fairly healthy for its time. It makes a sherry-infused bowl of rice, nuts, chicken and vegetables  with minimal clean-up — good for any era.

1960s chicken 2Don’s Chicken Pilaf (1967)
Serves 4

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup raw rice
1 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 teaspoon minced parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (3-4 pound) chicken, cut up
2 1/4 cups boiling chicken stock (or boiling water mixed with 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
3/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In an oven-proof saute pan with a lid, melt the butter. Add the celery, onion, mushrooms, and parsley and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley.
  3. Add the rice and stir to coat with butter on all sides. Continue cooking until the rice browns, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the water and sherry, then the chicken pieces, pushing them down so they are covered with liquid.
  5. Add the almonds, cover the pot and bake for 1 hour. Sprinkle each serving with additional parsley.
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In My April Kitchen

IMK Apr crocusesLet’s start this month’s post, hosted by the inimitable Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, outside with the welcome sight of crocuses pushing up through a soggy but snow-free lawn! My chives and rhubarb are sprouting (though neither is too photogenic yet). Later this month, I expect plant the lettuce seedlings that I buy from my local garden center. When they are ready for harvest, I will appreciate every green, crunchy bite.

IMK Apr rhubarbThe rhubarb sprouts made me want to rush the season with this strawberry-rhubarb sauce spiced with chunks of ginger and a tiny bit of cardamom. The color alone cheers me up!

IMK Apr matzo crackersThis week is Passover. For the first time, I found Kosher for Passover Tam Tams at the market. These bite-sized crackers require much less of a commitment than a whole sheet of matzoh. Here I topped them with apple-walnut charoses (a thick spread that’s a traditional part of the Passover menu).

IMK Apr kid cookbookLooking ahead, I’m recreating recipes from in the 1960s for a little longer to celebrate all things “Mad Men.” The first episode of the final season aired last night with the requisite amount of cocktails in and out of the office. Sally Draper may have outgrown this cookbook for kids but I’m having fun with the Grape-Ale Cooler and the Frosted Strawberry Float. Stay tuned!

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Think Pink!

1960s pink drinkAs the snow cover in Boston shrinks to reveal soggy, battered lawns, I’m unabashedly rushing summer with the Beachcomber cocktail I found in the Blender Cook Book from Better Homes and Gardens. It continues the 1960s theme inspired by the new season of “Mad Men” and the Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook Finale Party. The blender book harks back to the time when the blender was a standard kitchen appliance, before the steady onslaught of food processors, juicers, and Spiralators.

Mad Men Party LogoThere’s a reason the humble blender still has a coveted spot on top of my crowded counter. A recipe like this one could not be easier. All it takes is whirling together four ingredients with a few ice cubes. Instant tropical drink, instant escape from a dreary April day in 2015. Cheers!

A sketch from the BH&G Blender Cook Book.

A sketch from the BH&G Blender Cook Book.

Blender Cook Book Beachcomber Cocktail
Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 jiggers (2 1/4 ounces) light rum
1/2 jigger (3/4 ounce) Cointreau
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice [spooned from a jar of cherries]
1/2 cup crushed or cracked ice

Place all ingredients in the blender container. Blend quickly to mix and chill drink. Pour into a large cocktail glass and serve immediately.

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From ‘Mad Men': Party Like It’s 1969


1960s old fashioned“Mad Men,” scheduled to begin broadcasting its final season April 5, slavishly recreates the 1960s in every detail, from desktop ashtrays to skinny ties and go-go boots. Drinks – poured straight from bottles in the office – often get more air time than food, but the show’s stars flit past canape platters at parties and order chicken Kiev and cherry cheesecake at restaurants.

1960s stuffed celery For a virtual Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook Finale Party, I honored the party theme by making Old Fashioneds as well as Cocktail Nibblers (with Chex cereal) and Stuffed Celery. Continue reading

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Winter Salad from the Turf and Field Club Era

Winter Salad 2

Leave it to my grandmother, Hanna, to clip every newspaper recipe that remotely interested her and then stash it away where she couldn’t find it again. I came across dozens of yellowed clippings inside a book for Royal Baking Powder recipes that I inherited from her kitchen clutter. It’s hard to say exactly when she clipped this Winter Salad recipe, but my best guess is in the 1930s. Continue reading

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In My March Kitchen

IMK March iciclesNever mind these icicles I passed while walking to work and the snowiest February in Boston history. Spring arrives March 20 and I’m beyond ready! In the meantime, I’ve been reading recipes for inspiration – and looking at the monthly IMK posts hosted by Celia at figjamandlimecordial.

I found a new trove of my grandmother’s hand-written recipes, tucked into a Royal Baking Powder cookbook. Gelatine salads, here I come!

IMK March 1930s

But I started with her version of cinnamon and clove-spiced applesauce bread.IMK March applesauce bread

I also plan to make a few 1960s recipes to prepare for Mad Men’s final season, which begins April 5.

IMK March Mad MenIn the meantime, I’m picking fresh rosemary that I grow on my windowsill and putting it into everything I can think of, including martinis. Anything for a little green! I’ll be watching for the crocuses to poke up from the snow.

IMK March rosemary

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Portrait of a Cider Cake

Whistler book coverAnyone with an interest in 19th century art has studied American artist James McNeill Whistler’s iconic portrait of his mother, which now hangs in the Louvre. We’ve also heard Mr. Bean, the British comic character, call Mrs. Whistler in her portrait “a hideous old bat who looked like she’d had a cactus lodged up her backside.” Hard as it may be to believe from this description, Mrs. Whistler did like to cook. Continue reading

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