Archive for the ‘Nana's Recipe project’ Category

Recipe: Honey Wholewheat Bread     Source: Victory Economy Bulletin No. 3  Date: 1940s – World War II

One of the reasons that I was so excited to find my great-grandmother’s recipes was that I was sure they would be a good source of real, wholesome, good-for-you foods.  The Handy Reliable was written well before most food “products” were created, and although some of the recipes are out of reach of the modern cook, many of these 1892 dishes have helped to build my real food, low/no sugar repertoire.  I was surprised to discover that white sugar existed in 1892 (when did we start creating this refined stuff anyway?) and so have returned to searching through the stash for recipes that contain none of the white stuff.

Enter in World War II.  A time when sugar rationing meant that cooks had to find “new” ways to sweeten their dishes.  Unfortunately some of this was accomplished with corn syrup, but many of the recipes use other, more natural ingredients such as honey, maple syrup, and dates.  I was excited to discover a whole stack of  “Victory Bulletins” put out by the Lakeside Milling Company of Toronto, Ontario.  Last night I created the first of these recipes. 

I discovered that Campbell’s flour was a pastry flour, so I substituted whole wheat pastry flour in the amount indicated.  Everything else I kept exactly the same. (Really….I didn’t change a thing…I’m not sure what’s wrong with me…..maybe I’m coming down with something….)

This was pretty easy to put together.  Basically, you have three bowls.

In bowl one – 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup whole wheat flour (and no, I didn’t sift the flour, so I guess that’s two changes, maybe everything is alright with the world after all….)

In bowl two, 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates (the recipe says to wash these, I have never washed my dates, have you?  Maybe the recipe was originally made with fresh dates?) , 3/4 cup boiling water and 1 tsp. baking soda.

Does your knife look like this when you chop dates?  Any hints on reducing the stick as you cut?

Bowl three (the biggest bowl) contains 1 egg, well beaten, 1/2 cup honey, and 1 tsp vanilla. 

Take turns combing bowl one and bowl two into bowl three, beating after each addition (Hmmm..that sounds a little bit like the instructions that came with our canning shelf – insert Bolt A into Slot B and secure with Nut C.  Maybe I should retitle this post “Honey Wholewheat Bread – Some Assembly Required!)  When everything is all mixed together, fold in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1 tbsp. melted butter.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. 

Bake at 350 for an hour.  I reduced the temperature to 325 halfway through cooking as the top was getting a little too brown.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

I really enjoyed this bread.  It is quite different from any quick bread I have ever made before in that the sweetness comes from the dates, and not the bread itself.  It really is a nice balance and I will definitely be making this  again.  I do not yet know if it is a hit with the “menfolk” as the recipe boasts as hubby has not yet tried any. I’ll have to let you know his verdict in a future post. 

 It would probably be good with butter or jam or any kind of topping but I loved it just as it is!


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Recipe: Oatmeal Fruit Bars   Source: The Toronto Star  Date: 1943

I have started to sift through some of the many recipes my great-grandmother clipped out of newspapers.  I am finding the newspapers not only great for finding recipes, but also a glimpse into a by-gone era.   This recipe came from a December 1943 edition of the newspaper.   The fruit bars themselves contain mincemeat, and since it was my great-grandmother reading this paper, when it states that “our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would always make mincemeat when Christmas time came around” it is referring to my great-great grandmothers, and my great-great-great grandmothers!!   That’s quite a few greats!  Don’t you love being part of a tradition passed down through so many generations?

She also states that the recipe is being printed as a substitute for date squares as dates were a “casualty of war-times” and the mincemeat recipe included is meatless due to women wanting to “spend their precious meat rations on more nourishing dishes.”

The back of this newspaper clip is full of stories of holiday celebrating during wartime.

And the recipe shares a page with a story on achieving the perfect made-up look in less time, and this article on baby’s bowel movements (because that’s what everyone wants to read about as they are contemplating new recipes…..)

 This was a very simple and straight-forward recipe.  And an excellent use of the mincemeat I still have in the freezer from last years green tomato crop.

Oatmeal Fruit Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups pastry flour or 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used a little over half a cup of Demerara)
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening and 1/4 cup butter (I used 1/2 cup butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups moist mincemeat

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. 

Cut in the butter.

Press half the mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.

Spread mincemeat on top.

Cover with the other half of the flour and oat mixture.  The original recipe said to use a spatula to do this – I just used my fingers. 

Bake at 375 for 30 – 40 minutes.  When cool, cut into squares.  Then eat.  Yum!

These were really good.  The perfect balance between crumb and mincemeat.  I think they would be good with a date filling too!

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Recipe: Coconut Macaroons   Source: Nana’s handwritten recipes

Hubby and I were craving something sweet last night but there was absolutely nothing in the house that met that description (I offered to make hubby a smoothie but he turned me down – good, but not really a “dessert”).    Then it was Nana’s recipes to the rescue with this very simple recipe for Coconut Macaroons.  (yes, it is as hard to read as the photo shows)

I love anything with coconut so I was really excited to make these.  And I liked the fact that the recipe just made a dozen – perfect for a family of two to share.

Coconut Macaroons

  • 4 oz coconut ( the recipe actually say 4 oz or one package, but there was a HUGE difference between my package and 4 oz.  I used my scale and weighed the coconut)
  • 1 egg well beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Mix coconut and sugar well.

So far, so good.  Easy peasy, right?

Beat egg thoroughly until stiff, then add to coconut mixture.

Ok…so I know I am not the most advance cook or baker, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t beat a whole egg until stiff (and then I googled it just to make sure that I was right about that…I was…) So…did this mean that I was supposed to separate the egg and beat the egg white until stiff?  Did the term “stiff” in regards to the egg not mean what I think it means?  Or was this just another one of Nana’s…um…”typos” (what do you call that when it refers to actual writing?)  As I had already started to beat the egg, just in case it surprised me and actually did become stiff (it didn’t) I just beat it really well until it was nice and frothy.  Cooking is an art, not a science, right?

Add flavouring and blend well.

Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking sheet.

Bake in moderate oven (350) for 15 – 20 minutes. 

15 minutes was too long for these in my oven.  They were definitely a little more brown than they should have been (that didn’t stop us from eating them though…).  I would add to these instructions to remove them immediately from the pan onto a wire rack, otherwise they kind of stick to the pan, and in the process of trying to get them off they get all squished and some of them might fall apart and the sticky goo might make your spatula really hard to clean.  Of course, you have to eat the sticky, gooey, fallen apart ones right away – that’s just the way these things go. 

If you have any left, store them in an airtight container.  I found them to be crunchier the second day, but, then again, they were a little dark around the edges to begin with.

The recipe makes 12 absolutely delicious coconut confections.  Yum! 

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Recipe: Rolled Oats Crackles    Source: Nana’s handwritten recipes

Here is another of Nana’s handwritten gems. 

I’m not sure what the bit at the top concerning King James is all about – perhaps it was a homework assignment that had to be started over (see how money is written twice?) and became recycled as recipe paper?   Oh the questions I would ask Nana if I could….  I also giggle at the spelling of immediately – these were definitely the days before spell check!

This is a pretty simple and straightforward cookie recipe.  The only ambiguity is the temperature of the oven, which, when glanced at quickly, seems to say “cook in a snot oven.”  Now, I know I am unfamiliar with cookery in the early 20th century but even so I have a feeling that is not what she meant to write!  After trial and error (and a few overcooked cookies) I discovered that a hot oven of about 425 will cook these nicely.

Rolled Oat Crackles

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup fat (I used butter, of course!)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Use muffin method of mixing.  In other words: Combine all of the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add the wet to the dry and mix together.

Hmm…no raw eggs in this cookie dough…that means it’s safe to eat it uncooked right out of the bowl…..

If you’re a purest and want your dough cooked… drop by spoon onto greased cookie sheet and press into wafers. 

Bake at 425 for about 8 minutes, or until delicately brown.   Remove from pan emmediately…I mean…immediately. 


I brought these to a friend’s house to share and they got good reviews from everyone.  They are just a nice, simple cookie.  I am not exactly sure why they are called “crackles”   When I read the recipe I thought maybe they would have cracks on top like molasses cookies, but they don’t.  Then I wondered if they might be really crunchy, but they aren’t (well, other than the ones I burnt when trying to figure out the oven temperature…).  Are there any crackle experts out there?    What is the difference between a crackle and a regular cookie?

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Recipe: Nut Snacks  Source: Nana’s handwritten recipes

I have decided to take a bit of a break from the “Handy Reliable” and attempt to make some of my great-grandmother’s other recipes.  I was particularly interested in the hand-written recipes as I assume if she took the time to write them down, and if she saved them all those years, that she probably actually made them (although if she is like me she might have written down many recipes to try “sometime” and then just never got around to it…)

I decided to start with this one, for no other reason than I had all the ingredients in the house.

Nut Snacks

  • 1/3 cup butter                             1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar                               1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 egg yolks                                     1 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt

_____ (this word is unreadable) into a thick paste, spread into casserole.

I just mixed everything together into something that didn’t really look like a paste, but I went with it anyway.

And pressed it into an 8×8 pan.

The recipe continues…

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts or chocolate chips

(is it just me, or if you made them with all chocolate chips would they cease to be “nut” snacks?)

Spread onto the other mixture and bake 20 minutes in a moderate oven.  Cut while hot.

Seems simple enough.  I beat my egg whites a little and then added the sugar (I used demerara because that’s what I have on hand) and then went to add the walnuts.

Ok…so I thought I had all the ingredients in the house.  I went searching in my cupboards for other nuts and found these

which didn’t quite look like it would make up the difference but I dumped them into my new favourite kitchen gadget and ended up with this

which still didn’t equal even half a cup even with the walnuts.  So I pulled out these

Don’t be fooled, they are carob chips, not chocolate.  And no there wasn’t quite enough of those either…. I am considering renaming these “clean-out-your-cupboard-snacks.”  To top off the last little bit to make a full cup I threw in some sesame seeds, because, well, I had lots and why not?

Ready for the oven:

And after spending 20 minutes at 350 it looks like this:

And when the recipe says “cut while hot” it doesn’t really mean it, because the top part is still a liquid when it comes out of the oven until it cools off quite a bit.  “Cut while still warm” might be a better descriptor. 

And the verdict…..yum!  I was expecting them to be super sweet like a butter tart square, but they aren’t, which is really nice (although they are sweet enough, don’t get me wrong…)  I did find the bottom a little doughy and wonder if it wouldn’t benefit from being cooked a little first, like you do with some other bar recipes.  I might try that next time and see what happens.  Overall, a yummy little square.  A perfect little bite for when you feel like something sweet.

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Recipe: Macaroni Soup   

Source: The Handy Reliable Cookbook  Date: 1892

If there was such a thing as convenience food in 1892, this recipe would be it.  Provided you already have some stock made you can have a delicious dinner in less than an hour.   Compared to the two-day affairs of  some of the meat recipes, this is lightning fast!  Here is the recipe as printed:

Macaroni Soup  The macaroni must be boiled in water for 10 minutes, strained and put in boiling stock, in the proportion of half a pound to the gallon; simmer slowly for half an hour, and serve very hot, with grated cheese in a separate dish.

Did they have packaged macaroni in 1892?  You had to butcher your own ox-head but you could buy macaroni off the shelf…I must admit this one surprised me. 

Regardless, I will start by saying that this recipe is worth making!  It got two thumbs up both from myself and my hubby and has been added to the list of meals that we will make again.  I made a few changes when I made mine, but either way it is a keeper.  Here is what I did:

1.  I made my own chicken stock.  There is nothing like fresh stock.  If you have never made your own, you really should give it a try.  Not only does it make use of chicken bones, which you would otherwise throw out, but it is full of nutrients and tastes great.  I boiled mine for three hours without a lid, resulting in a nice condensed, flavourful,  broth (not at all like some of the thin stuff I have bought at the store).   My Dad always said that the sign of a good soup broth was if it turned to jello when refrigerated.  There are lots of recipes out there for broth – I cook my bones with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.   It keeps well long-term in the feezer or short-term in the fridge.

2.  Saute one chopped onion in some butter.

There were no vegetable oils in 1892 – and after reading this book  and this book it is rare that I use them in my kitchen either. 

3.  Add peeled, chopped carrot and some chopped celery and saute until slightly soft.

4.  Pour in your stock. 

4.  Once the stock is boiling, add your drained macaroni.

5.  Simmer for half an hour.  Serve with cheese on the side. (I used an aged white cheddar)

6.  While the soup is still piping hot, sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt into the soup – so yummy!

If desired, serve with a yummy grape foccacia:

This is totally optional and completely unrelated but I was so happy with the way this turned out I had to take a photo of it too.    Nothing like mixing a modern favourite with something from 1892….  The grapes are local and very sour but they taste great in the bread and I also mixed in handfuls of fresh herbs into the dough.  I used this recipe for the dough and then added my own herbs and topped it with the frozen grapes before the last rising (and yes, I used all white flour, because I used all of my whole wheat flour in a big double batch of zuchinni cranberry muffins, which I then burnt beyond eatability…this was after I nearly burnt the house down when my toast caught on fire and my batch of yogurt didn’t turn out and I can’t remember if I added an egg or not to my perpetual pancake batter before I put it in the fridge…please tell me other people have days like this too…)  I know it makes the meal a little carb heavy as a meal – but I was just so happy to have something turn out the way it was supposed to – it was that kind of day.

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Recipe:  Orange Pie     Source: The Handy Reliable Cookbook  Date: 1892   

Pies, to me, seem to be one of those quintessential old-fashioned desserts.  And pastry making an art on which homemakers of the past built their reputations.  The Handy Reliable has a good selection of recipes for a wide variety of pies and tarts.  There were a few old standards I recognized (3 different recipes for apple pie and 3 more for lemon) and many sounded intriguing (salsify pie, for instance).  But the one that caught my attention as a good one to start with (not having any salsify on hand – I’m not sure I have ever even seen salsify) was the orange pie.    

If you know me at all, or have been reading this blog for a while, it should come as no surprise to you that in my very third recipe to try from this book I should come across the one pie recipe with a major printing error.  (As in, half the recipe seems to be missing).  And it will also come as no surprise to you that I decided to try to make it anyway.  I am nothing if not determined.   

Here is the recipe as it appears:   

Orange Pie  Two oranges, eight tablespoonfuls of sugar, four eggs, two-thirds tumbler of milk; beat the yolks, sugar, and grated peel of the oranges, being careful not to grate off.   

There you have it!  Ready to make pie?     

At least I know my way around the kitchen, unlike the poor women “brought up in hotels and boarding-houses ” where the “larder and kitchen were terra incognita to them” for whom this book was written.   Luckily, one of the lemon pie recipes appeared very similar to this one so I followed it as much as I could to try to fill in some of the blanks.   

I began with the crust.  There are three in the Handy Reliable.  I made the “paste for custards.”   

 Rub six ounces of butter into half a pound of flour.  Mix it well together with two beaten eggs and three tablespoonfuls of cream.  Let it stand a quarter of an hour; then work it up and roll out very thin for use.     

 I used half unbleached white flour and half whole wheat pastry flour, and substituted milk for cream.  Even so this was one of the nicest pastries I have worked with.  Following the directions for the lemon pie I doubled the pastry around the edges as I placed it in the pans.  The recipe made enough to fill two pie plates.  I really had no idea from the orange pie recipe if there would be enough filling to make one pie or two, a small pie, or a large pie, so I went for one of each.  Incidentally the lemon pie recipe called for baking it on a “dinner plate.”  I’m not sure how that would work…   

Two crusts, ready to fill.

 Then I made the orange filling.  Following the directions up to the point given, then adding the milk and the juice of the two oranges.  Because I can’t leave well enough alone have been trying to use less white sugar I substituted half honey and half turbinado sugar for the sugar the recipe called for.   

It seemed really runny to me, but I put it in the pie shell anyway.  I probably could have put it in the smaller crust, but this would leave more room for meringue, right?   Time to pop it in the oven.  This is where old-fashioned recipes break down for me and technology had to step in.  There are no cooking directions in the orange pie recipe.  The lemon pie recipe states to “bake until done.”   (My heart once again goes out to those poor girls cooking in their kitchens for the first time…)  Google comes to the rescue with an old-fashioned orange pie recipe that seems similar.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes and 350 for 25 – 30.  In the oven it goes.   

After 5 minutes at 450 the edges of my pie crust were dark brown.  So much for building a reputation on the glory of my pie crust…   

I immediately turned the heat down to 350 and cooked it for the rest of the 30 minutes.   

Ta da!

 Meanwhile I am proud to say that I whipped my egg whites by hand (I had cheated by going to Google for temperatures so figured I’d make up for it by forgoing the electric beaters.)  I must admit that I had to use both right and left hand in turns to keep my wrists from falling off but I have never been so proud of seeing stiff white peaks form in my eggs.  (Our great-grandmother’s must have had some muscular arms!)   I added two tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar for sweetness (so much for my thing against white sugar…).  I piled it on top of the hot pie and baked it until nice and golden brown.   We ate it chilled as dessert for dinner tonight.  The verdict?  Hubby, who can eat his way through a tub of ice cream or bag of cookies in a matter of days, found this orangy, but tart, and definitely not sweet enough.  For me, the one who considers plain unsweetened yogurt to be dessert, this was nice, and light, and plenty sweet.  I read somewhere that the modern North American consumes about 26 pounds of sugar per year and before the turn of the century (1890s) the consumption was only 5 lbs per person per year.  Perhaps this is why the Handy Reliable’s desserts are less sweet than what we are used to.    I find the less sweet stuff I eat, the less sweet something has to be for it to taste sweet to me (how many times can a person use the word sweet in one sentence?)   This means that our ancestors could cook really scrumptious desserts and use half the sugar we do now, and still be happy.   They don’t call them the “good ‘ol days” for nothing! 🙂

The artistic shot




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