Picnic Panache

May 4th, 2008

The best place to talk recipes is at a picnic. It’s usually potluck. We all stand around waiting for the main course to cook. We’re hungry. So we talk food.

Last week it was salads. I heard that I make the best cole slaw ever. But Mona Faye’s deviled eggs can’t be beat. And Mona Faye’s youngest wondered where we could find that salad they make at Ruby Tuesday’s. “You know, the one with the bacon and broccoli?”

Here ya go, hon’! All for you.


3 c. broccoli florets
2 oz. (1/2 c.) shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 c. raisins
1/4 c. chopped red onion
8 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
1/3 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, cheese, raisins, onion, bacon and sunflower seeds. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice. Mix dressing well and allow it to stand refrigerated for an hour or so. Just before serving, stir dressing well and pour over salad ingredients. Toss to coat. Makes 9 (1/2 cup) servings.

What the Fricassee?

April 20th, 2008

If your first name is Lettice, your life’s plan is already mapped out for you. You will write a cookbook.

Mrs. Lettice Bryan wrote The Kentucky Housewife in 1839 with recipes adapted to the Southern climate. And for our family’s celebration of President’s Day, we had to fix Abe Lincoln’s fav, Chicken Fricassee from Lettice herself — the source that was probably kicking around Abe’s boyhood home back in the day.


When it all comes out on the dish, I really think that Fricassee is chicken-n-dumplin’s without the dumplin’s. My better half disagrees. And he would know since he grew up in Mona Faye’s Kitchen where chicken-n-dumplin’s are the comfort food of choice. I’ve yet to corner Mona Faye for her recipe, but I’ve concluded that the exact recipe is a bit of a secret (although I do know that it decisively contains no eggs).

Everybody has a Fricasee. The Italians have Fricassea di Pollastri with basil and prosciutto. The Germans have Huhnerfrikassee with nutmeg and Worcestershire. The Cubans have Fricasé de Pollo with lime and cumin. And the French have . . . well, Fricassee.

So we made our homage to Lincoln and Lettice and discovered a new family favorite. I adapted the “how to fricassee a chicken white” up above (the main difference between “white” and “brown” is the former is cooked with no skin). This dish is good enough to satisfy both Mona Faye’s son and grandsons although the younger you are the more ketchup you prefer.

Lincoln & Lettice Chicken Fricassee


1 chicken cut-up
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
5-6 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cups fresh small mushrooms
1 tablespoon sage
1 tablespoon parsley
1 cup milk

1 tablespoon of flour


Wash and dry the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika.

Brown the chicken in hot oil over high heat in a Dutch oven turning once. Add water and cover, simmering until chicken is cooked — 20-30 minutes.

Remove chicken. When cool enough, pick chicken off the bones and set meat aside.

Add onions back into the pot and cook until translucent. Add carrots and celery. Add mushrooms, sage and parsley. Whisk together milk and flour and add to the pot. Add chicken. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thoroughly heated.

Rice or noodles are optional but yummy.

[tags]Abraham Lincoln, Chicken Fricassee, Vintage Recipes, The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan, President’s Day[/tags]

When the Moon Hits Your Eye like a Big Meat-za Pie

April 13th, 2008


Pizza didn’t really get any attention outside the Italian-American communities until our soldiers came home from WW2. Oh sure, in the late 19th-century you could find a street vendor in Chicago on Taylor street who’d sell you a slice. The original version was a “tomato pie” which is the opposite of what we know as pizza — first cheese, then toppings, then sauce.

Naples is really the birthplace of pizza. In the 16th century, those poor commoners were the rapscallions who risked life and limb by topping their yeast-bread with those assumed-to-be-poisonous fruit of the nightshades (a.k.a. tomatoes). The Neapolitans now are purists about their pies. There are only two they accept within the family: the “Marinara” and the “Margherita.” The former is what the fisherman liked to eat — toppings of tomato, oregano, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and usually basil. The latter adds mozzarella cheese. That’s Amore!

But nobody — not one soul in Italy, Chicago, New Jersey, or New York — ever imagined this.


Not even Robert Atkins could fathom something so hideous as Meat-za.

But now that I look closer at the picture, I do think I remember seeing something like this in Chicago. But not on Taylor Street. This was at the Museum of Science and Industry. You know. . . . the Body Slices.

[tags]Pizza, Meatza, Robert Atkins, Museum of Science and Industry, Campbell’s Soup[/tags]

Red (Velvet) No. 2

April 5th, 2008

Mona Faye, as you who love her know very well, winters in the sunny tropical South. So while the rest of the country is shoveling and shivering, her leisure time is spent sans WiFi, basking poolside in her chrysanthemum bathing cap and reading trashy novels while sipping umbrella drinks and evening out her golden glow.

Well. . . . not really. But, at the very least, it’s been awhile since this blogger has added anything to the menu. But I have been stewing.

This week was our littlest family member’s second birthday. And while the adults clamor for waist-shaping sugar-free desserts and the tweens insist on nouveau cookie cakes, my little guys have pretty old-fashioned tastes when it comes to birthdays. They like the same thing I liked when my dear ol’ Mom baked my birthday cake.

They like red.

You who are nearing or have well past your fourth decade remember the Red (No. 2) Scare of the 70s. In 1976, while our older brothers tortured us with Logan’s Run-esque threats, those grown-ups destroyed our red M&Ms, dumped our orange drink from those pre-happy Burger Chef Fun Meals, and yanked all things cherried right from our Kool-Aid smiles simply because the FDA found Amaranth (dye) (a.k.a. E123) to be a carcinogen. Bullies!


Now, don’t confuse this with the Red No. 3 Scare of 1990 which also happens to cause cancer, but not enough cancer to upset the producers and consumers of strawberry Slim-fast and McCormick’s Salad Toppins’.

You can still get your red from No. 40 here in the good ol’ U. S. of A, but Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria have banned it. Killjoys! It’s only made from coal tar, and when you compare #40’s troubles to #2 and #3’s, there’s hardly any problems to speak of.

If you want to be really old-fashioned about your red — and we here at Mona Faye’s Kitchen are nothing if not old-fashioned — you get your crimson the way the Azteks and the Mayans did. From bugs. Yes, the E120 in your Jello or Doritos is nothing more than smashed-up South American beetlejuice. And while it’s not Kosher and it doesn’t cause cancer, it is very, very red.

In my memory, Red Velvet Cake disappeared for a few years after 1976. Shame really. When our grandmothers passed around the recipe in the 1940s (thinking they were stickin’ it to the Man known as the Waldorf Astoria for over-charging a patron for a copy of the recipe. Just like we did with the Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe.), they used beets! They didn’t even need the two bottles of red food dye that the recipe called for later. In fact, the baking soda and vinegar mixture that gives Red Velvet Cake its characteristic lift and flavor actually reacts with the (non-Dutch-processed) cocoa in the batter to give it a red twinge. So you really don’t even need any additives.

But how can you resist something so beautifully red! It just oozes that healthy, rosy glow, doesn’t it?

So here’s my recipe that I’ve tweaked until it resembles how my mom made it way back when. Some people prefer the cream cheese frosting, but I don’t think anything compares to the honest-to-goodness buttercream icing I have below here. Our version for the party today will be in cupcake form with Blue sugar sprinkles. Blue No. 1, that is.

Red Velvet Cake


  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Grease two 9 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Set aside.
  2. Combine the buttermilk, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the cocoa mixture. Beat in the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour, mixing just until incorporated. Stir together baking soda and vinegar, then gently fold into the cake batter.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. To Make Icing: In a saucepan, combine the milk and 5 tablespoons flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool completely. Cream together butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy, then stir in the cooled milk and flour mixture, beating until icing reaches spreading consistency.

[tags]Red Velvet Cake, Vintage Recipes[/tags]

Making a Dumpty

December 7th, 2007

When Humpty Dumpty slipped and fell,
He suffered from a fractured shell,
And when he saw his cracks and creases
Poor Humpty simply went to pieces.
He’ll make a happier landing, though,
In candy-sprinkled yeasty dough.


I honestly don’t understand. You bake the eggs? IN THEIR SHELLS? Didn’t Mrs. Howell try that with coconuts? Why does Ms. Crocker think we’d be any more successful? It doesn’t sound good. It doesn’t look good. It’s just sad. Do you want to eat sad eggs?

No wonder Tim is tiny!

December 5th, 2007

According to Dickens,
It was pretty slim pickin’s,
For the Cratchetts through most of the year.
But at Christmas they splurged
And the meal that emerged
Was a dinner almost without peer.
There was a crackling goose,
In its sizzling juice,
With cranberries girdling the platter,
When this was demolished
And the plates all clean-polished
They got to the heart of the matter–
A baked pudding-muffin
With prunes for the stuffin’
And white mounds of hard sauce as dressing,
When this sweetmeat appeared,
The Cratchetts all cheered,
And Tiny Time gave it his blessing.


Ms. Crocker’s cookbook poet clues us into the moral nature of this recipe right from the start (wink-wink-nudge-nudge). Even wiki recognizes that limericks are rarely wholesome. Well, the good ones are rarely wholesome.

Not only has Betty added — once again — dried fruit to an otherwise perfectly acceptable muffin. She’s forcing a little disabled boy to bless hard liquor! Okay, okay — it’s just flavoring. I’m sure the priest and rabbi and minister that checked these recipes before going to press (isn’t that what happened with all pre-1970s books?) required our Betty to emasculate the actual brandy into mere flavoring. The introductory limerick clues us into that.

But there’s always the prune sauce.

Little Jim Dandy Jam Dandy Maker

December 3rd, 2007

There are two kinds of people who will read this post. The first kind are under 60 and will understand. The over-60 crowd (if they are actually reading a blog. “What’s that thing again, Camille? Your BLOB?” “No, Mom. A bloG. It’s a BLOG. Like WEB-LOG.”) will say, “Oh, that’s my favorite cookie. Those jam cookies? And ooooo — date cake! I lost my recipe for that. We’ll have to try that again. It’s been years since I made date cake. That Lemon & Raisin sauce looks divine!” So to the Greatest Generation, who like their beloved FDR, actually like fruit cake, you’re welcome. To their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids reading, get your giggles in now. It’ll be on the dessert menu come the holidays, thanks to me!


Let’s be honest: “Jam Dandies” are nothing more than pre-jammed Bisquick biscuits. They don’t count as a dessert. And the cutesy play-on-words name for Cheery Cherry Nut Bread doesn’t disguise the fact that it’s still Bisquick with chopped fruit in it. Alice there in the picture doesn’t look bemused either. She looks hung-over.


Jack Be Nimble
Is the Symbol
For anything that’s quick !
Like cookies and cake
For you to bake
With a Jack-Be-Nimble trick !

No. No, no, no. Adding raisins to instant date bars, while it may be quick, will not be nimble. But adding raisins to a yellow, sticky ooze and call it “sauce”? ::shudder:: You see the expression on our pal Jack? You see what he’s looking at? He’s thinking, “What have I done! I’ve sullied my good, nimble name for yellow, chunky goo and filthy lucre.”

A Tart Spree!!

December 1st, 2007

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts
And as soon as they were done,
The Knave of Hearts, he stole the tarts
And ate them every one.
The Knave went on a real tart spree
Eating Chocolate, Strawberry, Lemon . . .
All three!

I’m sure these are lovely. I bet they are even yummy. But look at them. And look at the ‘stashed shemale serving them! Ew!


So the book says that Ol’ King Cole’s (not to be confused with the crooner Nat’s) spirits were fixed not by music, comedians, gambling, or cigarettes. No, it was his Flaming Mince Pies.


My dad had a jar of homemade mincemeat kicking around our house for years before he finally “reminded” Mom into baking it. Yech. I know that that version was just nut meats, but still. . . . Nothing that’d lift your spirits. Maybe it’s the flaming sugar cubes? Now that I think about it, actually seeing that yechy pie in flames would raise my mood! Maybe ol’ Betty is actually a subversive trying to stick it to the man after all.

[tags]Betty Crocker, Bake up a Story, vintage cooking, cookbooks, mincemeat, tart[/tags]

Cookies You Can Heave Across the Room

November 30th, 2007

Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks
May turn up on your cooky blocks.
And then the learning time is through
These ‘blocks’ are good for eating too.

Eating. Or tossing.


I gotta admit — these are pretty elaborate, Martha-level projects. I mean, take a look-see:


Only a lonely Martha would have the time to egg-yolk paint delicate pictures on cookies as a “learning time” for the absent neighbor children she has sued and/or alienated. That is why I say they are perfect for heaving across the room.

That and the inevitable listeria from the “paint.”

[tags]Betty Crocker, Bake up a Story, vintage cooking, cookbooks, Picture Block Cookies, Martha Stewart[/tags]

Happy Birthday, Mom!

November 28th, 2007

I made my Mom’s chicken noodle soup today. Not necessarily because it was her birthday, but because it felt good since we’re all nursing colds. I remember in my early teens when I was suffering from probably the worst sinus infection I’ve ever had, and my dear mom made a big pot of this soup for me to have any time I needed it. It was the perfect medicine — comforting, soothing therapy. I ate bowl after bowl while watching Gone With the Wind for the first time.

So I want to post the recipe. It’s one of those that I don’t have written down. I just have called Mom enough that I now know it by heart. This is the way my mom and my aunt and their mom always made good ol’ chicken soup.

  • A chicken. A big one. I don’t like the icky parts (heart and what-not) because it makes the broth weird. But you do want the neck. Boney parts are the key.
  • Boil that baby with some leafy celery sticks (not cut up) and a couple yellow onions with the fuzzy ends cut off but the skin on (the skin makes a nice color) and a bay leaf. Add salt and pepper if you remember it. About 1-2 hours. It’s done when the meat falls off the bones.
  • Take out the chicken and set it aside to cool. If you have the time, cool the whole pot of broth to skim the fat off. If you don’t have the time, I’ve actually had better luck with throwing in lots of ice cubes and spooning them out since the fat attaches to the ice.
  • Spoon out the bay leaf, the celery sticks, and onion if you can. If not, strain it with some cheese cloth in a colander.
  • When the chicken is cool enough to touch, pick off the meat and throw it back in the pot.
  • While you’re warming up the soup again, cut up some celery and carrots and throw them in. I like a lot of carrots. Cook them for around 30 minutes.
  • Close to dinner time, fix the noodles. I got the Manischewitz fine egg noodles this time because that’s what Mom always uses.

The Chciuk/Kaminski secret for making this soup successful is to never mix the noodles with the soup until it’s in each serving bowl. Otherwise the noodles get weird. And this way each person can get as many noodles as s/he wants.

If Dad were writing this blog post, he’d interject here how he liked to eat this soup when he was a kid. He’d get a lot of noodles and pour the soup over it. He’d eat every drop, and then salt the remaining noodles down and lick the plate clean. Then he’d probably eat the entire apple pie that my Grandma used to fix him for every dinner. Yes, a whole pie!! Every day!

As my Grandma Chciuk used to say, “a hearty appetite means a hard worker!”

So there you have it — all my family secrets. Happy 79th, Mom!!

[tags]chicken soup, chciuk, kaminski[/tags]