Mad Men Monday - Dessert

I have to admit it's been a while since I bought Jell-O, but two small boxes of the artificially-flavored Island Pineapple made it into my shopping cart today.  They were a necessary ingredient for the Aloha Pineapple Cream Squares we had for dessert tonight while watching the second-to-last episode of Mad Men.  I have just loved this show - and it's been a lot of fun culling through my mom's recipe books looking for fitting foods to match the times.

This dessert epitomizes the '60s - from the Jell-O to the fact that it actually takes time to prepare.  This really would have been considered a time-saving recipe in its day, but because of refrigeration and cooling times, it took several hours from start to fork.

This really is the kind of stuff my mom used to make - and this particular recipe is written out in her hand.  I don't know how or where it came from.  It may have been on the back of a Jell-O box or she may have taken three recipes and combined them.  She was good at doing that.  All I do know is it was really good!

There was a surprise for me, though.  The final step is to pour a "family-sized" box of cooled Jell-O over the cream layer after it has refrigerated for 4 hours.  I thought it would add a top layer of Jell-O.  It actually seeped under the cream and created a layer between the cookie crust and the cream.  1960s magic.

The recipe states any flavor of Jell-O.  I went with pineapple to stay with my theme.

And it does make a lot.

Only one more week of Mad Men.  I guess I'll just have to drown my sorrows with Italian Food.  In Italy!

Mad Men Monday

If this was a magazine, tonight would be the Pineapple Issue.

Tonight's dinner is pretty much brought to you from the Hawai'ian Islands and the nice people at Dole.  Well...  It's probably more of what the folks on the mainland envisioned Hawai'i to be rather than what it really was.  Madison Avenue was selling us Hawai'i the same way they were selling us Ford's, Oldsmobile's, and Speedy Alka-Seltzer.  And we all know how Madison Avenue sells illusion rather than truth.  That's the show we're watching!

My first visit to Hawai'i wasn't until 1973 - and while I was only there for about 8 hours, it definitely was different than I had expected.  It was actually a lot better. Granted, I was weeks before my 21st birthday and I was highly intoxicated the entire time I was there, but it really was a lot nicer than I had imagined.  I was on a Pan Am 747 that was flying from Saigon to San Francisco.  Problems in Hawai'i kept us on the island for many Mai Tai's.

But back to the mainland and the 1960s...

Chicken and pineapple and teriyaki sauce were all the rage for the backyard luau on the lanai.  So for this one I started off with Auntie's Teriyaki Sauce.  It was probably Uncle Tommy's, but...

Auntie’s Teriyaki Sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • pinch black pepper

Mix all ingredients.  Use for chicken, beef, or pork.

So tonight, I made chicken ka-bobs.  Anything on a skewer was a kabob - I didn't learn the word brochette until I started working in restaurants.  These were alternating pieces of tomato, pineapple, marinated chicken, onion, and red bell pepper.  Grilled to perfection.

They were served atop a Rice and Noodle Pilaf.  Shades of Rice-A-Roni!  My mom used to make homemade variations of Rice-A-Roni all of the time.  This is a classic - and it worked perfectly with the ka-bobs.  In fact, it worked really, really good.  I'll be making this again.

I halved the recipe and still had way too much, but it will make great leftovers...

And then, because I wanted to stay with the pineapple theme, we had Pineapple Carrots.

These were merely okay.  They weren't stellar, but they didn't suck, either.  They might work better with brown sugar and a splash - a very small splash - of rum...  I'll get back to you...

And I figured I really should show a picture of Aunt Dolores and Uncle Tommy.  Here they are in Honolulu in 1958 having breakfast with their driver on their last morning before heading back to California.

They vacationed in Hawai'i several times...

And then we have dessert - which will get its own post after we watch Mad MenAloha Pineapple Cream Squares.

These promise to be interesting...

Mad Men Monday

This dinner is going to come with a warning: Danger!  Do Not Try This At Home! 

The '60s could be cruel - and this proved it.

Okay...  To be fair, the chicken was a bit different, but it wasn't atrocious.  The corn was atrocious.  Really atrocious.  I wonder if my mother had been hitting the cooking sherry when she wrote "Great!" and "Very Tasty!" on the page.  She didn't fail very often in her cooking, but this one...  sorry, Mom.  It sucked.

The lemon juice simply ruined it.  I mean...  It's not like the ingredients couldn't work together a bit, but the lemon juice really threw it out of balance.

It will not be repeated.  Ever.

The chicken was also decidedly different - but in a different way.  It combined flavors that I really wouldn't have combined with a cooking technique I didn't really agree with and ended up with a final product that - if reworked quite a bit, could probably be fun.  This worked - but barely.

First thing you will probably realize is that if you pour a sauce over bacon, the bacon will not crisp.  It was thoroughly cooked - anything cooked for three hours will be cooked, trust me - but it would have been better if there had been a bit of sear to it.  And the chicken was more poached than baked from sitting in the sauce.  The surprise was the chipped beef.  It actually added a bit of a fun saltiness to the dish.  With those ingredients, absolutely no salt was added to the dish.

As I said...  It wasn't bad - it just wasn't great.  And I'm not sure it would be worth trying to rework into something better.  It may just work better as a memory.

My mom used to make creamed chipped beef on toast and I may have been the only kid who liked it back then.  I haven't made it in 30 years - at least - but I do have some chipped beef left over.

Maybe Sunday breakfast...






Mother's Day and Birthdays

Mother's Day is a bit different when your mom's no longer around.  It's even more so when Mother's Day and Mom's Birthday fall on the same day.

Mother's Day and Mom's Birthday were always the start of the month-long May Birthday Celebration in our house.  All four of my sisters are May-Babies, as well.  Yes, it was a crazy time.  But none of those birthdays topped Moms.  She was the Queen Bee.  And even though they were often just days apart - when they didn't fall on the same day - they were two separate occasions.

My father set the mood by having stacks of presents on the table when she got up.  He had a great eye and bought a good portion of her clothes.  He knew what she looked good in and she loved what he bought.  She very rarely returned anything.  And shoes...  Her father and brother both sold high-end women's shoes.  Back in the day she had every matching shoe/bag/belt/hat-combo there was. Imelda Marcos sought advice from her.

Mama had six kids but Mama had style.

And while she ooed and awed over her gifts, she spent extra-special attention on the things we made her.  Every picture was a Michelangelo original.  Every card, every 29¢ bottle of perfume, every inedible cake we baked, was greeted with praise worthy of an Old Master or chef de pâtisserie.  And she saved every one of those scribbled cards.

Victor's mom and my mom were born 2 days apart, on opposite coasts, in 1926.  Friday we took his mom out for dinner at the local diner - her choice - and yesterday we had his family over for a combo Birthday Mother's Day dinner.  Since I've been doing through Mom's recipes for our Mad Men Mondays I've kept eying her Chinese Casserole.  It's a dish she made up back in the '60s and feeds an army.  I haven't made it in years and years - because it feeds an army.  I decided her birthday was the perfect excuse to introduce it to the east coast family.

My mom never really followed recipes and never really quite had her measurements down.  It's a trait I totally understand, so I never have a problem following them.  You can go with them as written or play around a bit.  They always come out great.  For the casserole, the only things I changed were the soups and the mushrooms.  I used organic cream of soups - I just couldn't do the national brand and she probably used Lady Lee brand from Lucky Market, anyway... and I added a package of exotic mushroom blend to the mushroom mix.  As I said, mom would experiment all the time and as new things caught her eye she would include them when she could.

The Rice-A-Roni Wid Rice mix was a bit different, as well.  It's now labelled "Nature's Way" and calls itself "all natural."  Strange... But it worked.

In fact, all of it worked quite well.  It was Mom's Chinese Casserole.  No doubt about it.  The only things missing were her - and the huge Corning Ware casserole she made it in.

And then we had the rest of the meal...

I made a huge lasagne.  And I do mean huge.

Lasagne is something I have never used a recipe for.  I simply worked in too many Italian restaurants and made too many of them to ever think I needed one.  And I don't use no-boil noodles.  I think they make a gummy lasagne and you can't encapsulate the filling with them.  Lasagne is a wrapped package of goodness - not a semi-layered gooey mess.  Spend the extra ten minutes cooking your noodles.

The filling for this lasagne included cooked ground beef, hard cooked eggs, porchetta, speck, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, and lots of shredded cheeses - mozzarella, fontina, asiago...

I baked it covered Saturday night for 1 1/2 hours at 350° and then re-baked - also covered - it Sunday for 2 hours at 300°.

For the last 30 minutes I raised the temperature to 350°, uncovered it, and added shredded cheese to the top.

It made much more than we needed.  Even with doggie bags leaving, I froze a goodly amount for another day.

The meal didn't stop there...  We also had Chicken cutlets.

I breaded them with panko breadcrumbs and corn meal.    It gave them a nice crunch.

We also had another huge fruit salad - in Mom's 1960s Salad Bowl...

And the pièce de résistance was a Coconut Cake!

This was a much simpler cake than the monstrosity I made last year.  Last year was good, but it was really a one-time cake.  I don't see another one of those in my future.

This cake was much lighter and actually more enjoyable because of it.

I made a lightly-flavored coconut whipped cream for the filling and top and sprinkled shredded coconut on top.

The recipe will make either three 8" layers or 2 10" layers. I chose width over height and used 2 10" springform pans.

Coconut Cake

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¼ cup Coco Lopez or other coconut cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter two 10" or three 8" pans.  Line with parchment, and butter parchment.  Flour pans and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix  together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir together the milk, coconut milk, vanilla, and coconut cream.  Add the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture in three increments, starting and ending with the dry.

Whip the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until evenly blended. Divide the cake batter evenly among the two or three prepared cake pans.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes for 8" cakes or 40-45 minutes for 10" cakes - or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pans about 15 minutes, remove from pans and set on racks until completely cool.

For Whipped Cream Icing:

Whip 1 1/2 cups whipping cream with 1/4 cup Coco Lopez.  Place about 1/3 whipped cream on first layer.  Top with second layer and spread remaining 2/3 cream on top.  Generously top with shredded coconut.

This was an easy one to make and really took no time at all.  I can see it - and a few variations - becoming a part of the repertoire.

All-in-all It was a good day with a lot of good food and fond memories.

And Mad Men Monday?!?  There's a 1960s Chinese Casserole in the 'fridge right now.

Leftovers.  What a concept!






Mad Men Monday

So...  Are ya watching Mad Men on TV?!?

It is pretty much the only show I am watching.  I don't care about Real Housewives of anywhere, I haven't seen Dancing With The Stars since Victor's cousin Kelly won the first season, and the rest of it really is a vast wasteland...

But Mad Men?!?  Brilliant.  I get to relive my childhood every week.  It's a lot of fun.

So...  I thought another bit of fun would be to dust off my Mom's Cook Books from the '60s and see about recreating some of those fun and fabulous meals from yesteryear.  Oh my goodness gracious some of the recipes she collected!

It's really been a hoot going through them.  I have quite a few I want to make, but tonight I thought I'd start off with something really simple.  It was a chicken pie with a rice crust.  With turmeric. How exotic!  I really resisted adding things to this  and switching things around.  The only real change I did do was to saute the onions, celery, and bell pepper before stirring it into the sauce.  I just had to.  Otherwise, it was made as written!

I tried to make it look just like Mom would have...

And it really did look great just before going into the oven...

Alas... It did not slice into neat and lovely slices.  It completely fell apart.

But it really did taste good.  The predominant flavor was the turmeric from the rice.  I really would have jazzed up the filling and definitely would have added cheese to the filling.  But...  It was fun the way it was.

And then we had dessert!


My mom was Queen of Desserts.

We had dessert every single night.  Sometimes it was just cookies, often cake, but she also did lots of bars and other things she could make a lot of and cut up for six kids.

These were the Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars.  I think at some point I have had all of the various bars pictured.  These just called my name, today.

Very simple to pull together.  And what's really nice is they're not overly-sweet.  A nice balance.

The recipe called for chocolate chips and - OMG - I was out!  I had white chocolate chips, but that just wouldn't do.  I chopped up a bit of semi-sweet chocolate bar.  Mom would understand.

We also ate them from glass plates - unheard of in the '60s in our house.  Melmac reigned supreme back in those days.

We did have glass in the house, though...  Like Mama's salad bowl with matching cruets...

We used it for our fruit salad...

On Sunday - Mother's Day - I'm making her famous Chinese Casserole.  Besides Mother's Day, it is also her Birthday.  She would have been 86...

I think it's a fitting tribute...


Mad Men Monday

The guy who disdains television - who actually has problems figuring out the remote control - is hooked on Mad Men.

It's true.  I absolutely love the show.

I think the first reason is that it is so true to life.  It's my youth being broadcast on TV every week.  I remember everyone smoking everywhere.  In elevators, in the movie theaters...  Hell...  my pediatrician would have a cigarette going while examining me.  It was a normal part of life.  Cigarette advertising actually touted certain brands as being healthy.  Doctor recommended. And the booze.  It really was everywhere.

It was definitely a fun time to be growing up in the Big City.

So fast-forward 50 years and I get to relive my youth every week.  On Mondays because we tape the Sunday show.  Tape.  Did I just show my age?  We electronically record it on our Digital Video Recorder.  We used to tape things. Last century.  I used to smoke, also.  I started when it was still good for me.  Before Surgeon General warnings were even thought of.  I was pretty cool.

But back to Mad Men...

We've been watching it on Monday, right after dinner.  So today I had the brilliant idea of doing Mad Men Monday and recreating some of those recipes from the golden years of canned Cream of Whatever Soup and frozen Veal Cutlets.

And what better place to find recipes than my mom's cook books from the '60s and '70s?!?  Two huge binders of recipes she created, cut out from magazines and newspapers, as well as recipes written out by my grandmother, great-aunts, family friends...  They've been my own personal Mad Men for years.

I have referenced these books forever, but I have to admit that I have rarely really read a lot of the recipes or ever really followed any of them exactly.  I would more often glance over pages, see something that caught my eye, and then used it as a starting off point to get the creative juices flowing.  And after really reading a few of them tonight, it was a little scary.

I can't imagine cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts for three hours even if the oven temperature is 275°.  On a bed of chipped beef, no less...

But there are a lot of them I really do want to have a go at.  And I think it would be fun to eat them in the living room while watching Mad Men.  We never eat dinner in front of the TV.

Time for a change!

So... I'm going to go through the books and start planning a few meals.  I don't promise to make them exactly as printed, because as low as they may be, I do have standards.  But I am going to try to be as authentic as I can be.

No cigarettes and no Scotch - those days are behind me - but a Bacardi Rum Cake for dessert is a definite possibility...

And maybe even some Heinz Beans...