Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Beef Stew, 1958 February 6, 2011

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 3:30 PM
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Hello, crumpets! My mom says she misses my posts, but honestly, I have not been inspired much, in a good or bad way, by anything I have cooked lately.

There’s also been this to deal with–behold Thing 2. For 25 days we were all held hostage by the Cone of Consternation. To get back at us he would scrape it along every surface of the house, including Miss Pooch, all night long.

I made something interesting today, but I can’t talk about it yet, as it was an audition for a baby shower dish that needs to be a surprise. One day, we will chat about it.

 I have made some Rachel Ray recipes from her Look & Cook book–a cod and Italian sausage one pot that was ok, but too fennelish as leftovers; a spinach and artichoke macaroni and cheese that had no flavor; and a cherry tomato and cheese ravioli soup, which was pretty good. Bo-ring.

But! I also got hold of a vintage edition of Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two, published in 1958.

(We have some of that china in pink!)

The best part is that it’s illustrated by Charley Harper, whom I love!  The drawing accompanying the Potatoes Anna recipe is somewhat terrifying, don’t you think?

The book contains complete meals, which are often handicapped by things that no longer exist, like Betty Crocker Cream Puff mix, which my mother says she doesn’t remember ever existing. There are lots of gelatin salads, and nearly everything calls for a variation of French dressing! Ick.

The first thing I made was the Beef Stew with Dumplings, from the “American Favorites” chapter. It called for an unusual seasoning mix–lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and allspice, along with the usuals–carrots, potatoes, garlic, onion, etc.  Since it assumed you were cooking for two, it called for a mere 1 pound of beef. It was nice to have a bit of leftovers, but not quarts and quarts worth (I am talking to you, Rachel Ray).

It turned out quite yummy. The downfall was the dumplings. The book says to use Bisquick. I do no do Bisquick. I whipped up a biscuit/dumpling recipe I found online and the resulting dumpling was mealy. We just ate around them.

The thing that struck me about the recipe is how it assumed the cook was not an idiot and had basic cooking skills. For example, it didn’t say to peel the carrots and potatoes; it said to cook the dish for two hours, but didn’t say what heat setting to use. It said to add all ingredients “except vegetables,” and I was a bit unclear as to whether that included the onion and garlic. Yet, it all turned out fine, save the dumplings.

The rest of the menu for the meal was a lime and pineapple salad, which I couldn’t make because I am allergic to pineapples. (Yes, I know. Who is allergic to pineapples? Me, that’s who.) Plus, tapioca cream (ha ha ha! ) and ginger cookies, baked from the Betty Crocker gingerbread mix. I didn’t make those either, as we already had some ginger snaps on the premises.

I just paid attention to this, but the accompanying illustration shows a herd of cattle nibbling on some hay in a field. A farmer, in a plaid jacket,  natch, is standing atop a giant pile of hay within a fence, and forking it to the cows. Oh, Charley, were you a vegetarian? I can’t imagine another reason to depict my dinner enjoying its bucolic setting. 

Later in the week, I made Betty’s Butterscotch Brownies/Praline Squares. They involved a mixture of shortening (I used butter), brown sugar, an egg, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and pecans. They also turned out very mealy, and I ended up throwing away the pan. What a waste of some good pecans.

Maybe things just were always mealy in 1958, and that’s the way people liked it.