Au Gratin potatoes are a nice comfort food, but they can get boring, so I was intrigued by a hundred-year-old recipe for Potato Tarts a la Gratin. A muffin tin is lined with pastry dough, then filled with diced au gratin potatoes. The resulting tarts were tasty, visually appealing, and a nice change of pace. They reminded me a bit of the savory hors d’oeuvres served by hotels at events – though they were tastier than many of those hors d’oeuvres.
Here’s the original recipe:
I substituted butter for the lard when I made this recipe. Rather than using left-over cold potatoes, I made boiled diced potatoes which I immediately used in the recipe.
When I made the sauce, it seemed rather thin for a tart filling, so I coarsely mashed a few of the diced potatoes and stirred them into the sauce to make it thicker before adding the remainder of the diced potatoes. This worked well.
3 – 4 medium potatoes, diced into 3/4 inch pieces (about 2 cups diced potatoes)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese + additional cheese to sprinkle on the top (I used cheddar cheese.)
pastry dough (enough for 1 2-crust pie, or use approximately 4 pre-rolled sheets)
Preheat oven to 425° F. Roll pastry dough and cut into circles. Line the space for each muffin in a muffin pan with the circles of pastry dough. Fit each circle, trim, and flute edges.
Put the diced potatoes in a sauce pan and cover with water. Put on the stove and bring to a boil using high heat; then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes). Drain potatoes. Remove about 1/3 cup of the potatoes from the sauce pan; put in a bowl and coarsely mash using a fork. Set aside both the mashed and diced potatoes
Melt the butter in another sauce pan, then stir the flour and salt into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the mashed potatoes and 1/2 cup shredded cheese, continue heating until the cheese melts. Add the diced potatoes. Stir to combine.
Spoon into the pastry shells, and sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top. Bake until hot and bubbly, and the top begins to brown (about 30 minutes).
I have warm memories of Popeye the Sailor Man eating spinach to grow strong. Spinach is chockful of nutrients, and is an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and vitamin C, as well as being one of the best sources of plant-based iron. What’s not to like?
As a result, I’m always on the lookout for good spinach recipes. So when I came across a hundred-year-old for Spinach Soup, I decided to give it a try.
The creamy Spinach Soup was delicious with a slight peppery undertone which added interest.
2 quarts spinach (I used a 10 ounce package of spinach.)
6 cups water
1/2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 clove garlic or 2 tablespoons chopped onion (I used the chopped onion.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 cup cream, if desired
Put spinach and water into a large pan, and bring to a boil using high heat; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Removed from heat, and puree or press through a sieve. (I used a Foley mill.)
In the meantime, put milk, garlic or onion, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Using medium heat, scald the milk, while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and strain. (Discard the garlic or onion and bay leaf.)
Put butter in large pan or dutch oven. Melt using low heat; then stir in the flour. Slowly add scalded milk while stirring constantly. Then stir in the spinach mixture, salt, cayenne pepper, and celery salt. Heat until steamy, then serve.
If desired whip the cream, and put a dollop of the whipped cream on top of each bowl of soup.
Sometimes I crave classic old-fashioned cream pies. I recently came across a lovely recipe for Coconut Pie in a hundred-year-old cookbook. This pie differs from many modern coconut pies because, in addition to the usual milk, egg yolks, and coconut, the recipe calls for grated lemon rind and lemon juice. The lemon adds a lovely sunny note to this rich creamy pie.
Here’s the original recipe:
When I updated the recipe I updated the spelling of coconut. “Cocoanut” is an archaic way of spelling coconut that I sometimes see in old recipes and cookbooks.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Put milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, butter, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Stir in grated lemon rind and coconut. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F.. Bake additional 60 minutes or until knife inserted into center of pie comes out clean.
I was recently browsing through a hundred-year-old cookbook, and came across a recipe for Fried Bananas with Crumbs, and decided to give it with a try. The recipe said that the Fried Bananas could be served with Lemon Sauce, so I also made the sauce.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the Fried Bananas with Crumbs and Lemon Sauce were surprisingly tasty. The Fried Bananas were crispy on the outside, and the Lemon Sauce added a bright, sunny, sweet-sour flavor.
Here’s the original recipe:
Six bananas seemed like a lot, so I divided the recipe in half when I made it.
I garnished the Fried Bananas with lemon slices, but I just couldn’t bring myself to follow the directions in the old cookbook and also garnish them with parsley. But, who knows, maybe the bananas would have looked better if I’d also used parsley.
Both Sherry Sauce and Lemon Sauce sounded good. Unfortunately, Lowney’s Cook Book, the cookbook that I got the Fried Bananas recipe out of, did not have a recipe for Sherry Sauce; but it did contain a recipe for Lemon Sauce, so the decision about which sauce to make was easy. I made Lemon Sauce.
The Lemon Sauce recipe also looked like it would make a lot of sauce, so I divided it into half.
1/2 cup fine plain breadcrumbs (I put 1 bread slice, that I tore into several pieces, into the blender to make the breadcrumbs.)
shortening or vegetable oil
lemon pieces or slices (for garnish, if desired)
parsley (for garnish, if desired)
Place flour on a plate or in a small bowl, and place the bread crumbs on another plate or small bowl. Put the beaten egg in a small bowl.
Peel bananas; cut into half both lengthwise and crosswise. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lemon juice. Roll in the flour, then in the egg, and finally in the bread crumbs.
Heat about 1/2 inch of shortening or vegetable oil in a skillet, then put the breaded banana pieces in the hot shortening or oil. Fry until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently turn to brown the other side. When browned, remove bananas from the skillet. Drain on paper towels, then serve with Lemon Sauce. If desired, garnish with lemon pieces or slices and parsley.
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
grated rind of 1/2 lemon
3/4 tablespoon butter
Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a saucepan. Stir in the water, and heat using medium heat until the mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer until the mixture thickens (about 10-20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, grated lemon rind, and butter. Serve hot.
Making cut-out cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions, so I was thrilled to see a recipe in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook for Gingerbread Men.
These delightful molasses and spice cookies are decorated with raisins or currants, and are a little thicker and chewier than some gingerbread cookies. They’d be lovely on a holiday cookie tray.
Here is the original recipe:
The caption under the illustration in the old textbook says, “Some suggestions to please the children.” Today Gingerbread Men often are topped with lots of colorful icing, and very sweet. Would children in 2020 be pleased by Gingerbread Men decorated with only raisins or currants? My gut feeling is that many today wouldn’t fully appreciate this old-time flavorful, healthier option – and would miss the icing. Which is a pity. The Gingerbread Men were wonderful.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Put shortening, brown sugar, egg, and molasses in mixing bowl; mix together. Add baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and flour; stir to combine. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness. (If too sticky to roll, add more flour.) Cut into shapes using a Gingerbread Man cookie cutter. Put on prepared baking sheet. Raisins or currants may be used for eyes, mouth, and buttons. (Cut raisins into several pieces if they are too large.) Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.
I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Creamed Turnips, and decided to give it a try. Creamed Turnips makes a lovely side dish. I served them with pork chops, and the earthy sweetness of the turnips immersed in a velvety cream sauce perfectly complemented the meat.
Here’s the original recipe:
One teaspoon of salt seemed like a lot of salt for the Cream Sauce, so I only used 1/2 teaspoon.
Peel the turnips, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Put the cubed turnips in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat, drain, and put in serving bowl.
In the meantime, melt butter in another saucepan. Stir the flour into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add salt and pepper, then reduce heat and continue boiling for 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Pour cream sauce over the turnips.
Some old rules of thumb and beliefs about nutrition are true. For example, my mother always told me to eat carrots so that I could see better at night. She was right. It’s true that carrots contain lots of Vitamin A which may make it easier to see in the dark.
Carrots are also a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K; and, they are high in fiber, and low in calories.
The bottom line is that carrots are a very nutritious vegetable. But, except for nibbling on the occasional raw carrot, I seldom eat them. So when I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Braised Carrots, I decided that it was time to try a carrot recipe.
The Braised Carrots, when made using beef broth, taste and have a texture similar to carrots in a beef stew. It makes a nice vegetable side dish. The carrots are cut lengthwise into long strips which makes for a nice, somewhat unique, presentation.
Fill a Dutch oven half full with water. Put on stove and bring to a boil using high heat.
In the meantime, wash and peel (or scrape) the carrots; then quarter lengthwise. Put carrots in the boiling water and cover. Remove from heat. Let sit until the water has cooled (about 45 minutes). Drain.
Preheat oven to 375° F. In the meantime, on the top of the stove, melt butter in an oven-proof skillet using medium heat. Gently put carrots in the skillet and cook for about 10 minutes. May be gently turned once or twice. (The carrots were difficult to turn without breaking, and they didn’t really seem to need to be turned, so I did not turn most of them. They did not brown, but became more tender). Add stock or water, and put in oven for a half hour. Remove from oven, and put in serving dish. Spoon some of the liquid over the carrots.