If reading my latest entry is any indication, I’ve been researching 1940s history lately. Apart from my interest in women’s participation in the Second World War, I have also been captivated by this era’s music, fashion and of course – food!
There is something about vintage recipes that make me feel guilty for craving them. The truth is, a lot of them are unhealthy. In today’s society we are so aware of what our bodies consume. We are more knowledgeable of health and nutrition than previous generations. On top of that, we have access to delicious items that were once limited. Our health-conscious minds and bountiful grocery stores have allowed our arguably once bland taste buds to evolve. We have the opportunity to experience flavors from around the globe in our very own kitchen.
And yet, when it comes to cravings, we all have a list of our favorite ‘comfort foods’. What are your comfort foods? When discussing this topic with friends, it usually comes down to what our parents made when we were growing up. What are our parent’s comfort foods? The recipes that their parents made. You could argue that maybe it’s just nostalgia for our childhood; but for me, even with all the kale, quinoa and mangoes that stock my fridge, nothing brings my tummy more joy than making myself a hamburger pizza when I’m really craving it. ‘What is a hamburger pizza?’, you may ask. Well, growing up it was my comfort food. It consists of ground beef, green pepper and onions fried together with tomato sauce. Which let’s be honest, it was probably just Ketchup. It was served on a toasted English Muffin with melted cheese. Healthy? No. Delicious? Absolutely! My Mum would sometimes make them for us and it was her comfort food when she was a kid.
During my research of the forties, the food recipes I found were similar in comparison to my comfort foods. I found hamburger steak, fried chicken and fruits and vegetables consisted of gherkins, canned goods or potatoes. Still, I was intrigued by the simplicity of these recipes. Ingredients required are minimal, but they aren’t the healthiest. During the past week I made a meal that reflects the cuisine of the past but with a modern twist. The recipes I’ve listed below are by no means super-foods, but are health-conscious in effort.
A Summer Menu (Serves Four)
This meal is to resemble that of a 1940s all-American garden party. I will suggest playing the music of this era when serving this menu for added ambiance. On a personal note, for any readers out there with ideas on how to make these recipes even healthier, I’d love to hear your recommendations. There’s nothing like indulging in our favorite comfort foods – guilt free.
Refreshing Iced Tea: Historically, Iced Tea has always been a popular drink in the Southern U.S. Though it was invented well before the forties, it has consistently been a popular summer beverage throughout history. Store bought Iced Tea today is guaranteed to be filled with sugar and preservatives. When consuming these products, we lose the taste of the tea itself, because the sugar content is so overpowering. This recipe is home-made, low in sugar and I guarantee more refreshing than any store brand.
Ingredients – 2 Litres Water, Orange Pekoe Tea Bags (5), 2 Tb Maple Syrup, 1 Lime, 1 Peach
Boil water. While water is boiling, slice peach into ¾ inch slices. Place peach slices in a Ziploc bag and freeze. Once water has boiled, pour water into a heat proof juice container and add tea bags. Set a timer for five (5) minutes to let the tea steep. Cut two thick slices of lime and cut the rest of the lime into chunks to use as a garnish. Once the timer goes off, remove the tea bags and stir the tea. Squeeze the juice from the two (2) slices of lime into the tea and stir in maple syrup. Cover the juice container and chill the tea for 4 – 6 hours in the fridge. Place the lime pieces in a Ziplog bag and refrigerate. Serve iced tea in highball glasses with ice and frozen peach slices. Add lime as an additional garnish.
Steamed Greens: Fresh produce was limited in the forties for many reasons: the state of the economy following the Great Depression made things scarce, it was difficult to transport crops that couldn’t grow within the respective climate and rations of WWII required people to be creative with what they were permitted to consume. At the time, vegetables were often only available in cans, again, loaded with preservatives and sodium. Thankfully, many of us are lucky to have access to fresh vegetables and we should not take that for granted. While steaming vegetables for too long can remove its nutrients; a few minutes will give you that simplicity of the past with a delicious crunch.
Ingredients – Four (4) cups of Water, five (5) cups of Green Beans
Boil water in a medium-size pot. While water is boiling, wash green beans and remove the ends. Add green beans to a steamer and place on top of pot once water has reached a boil. Cover the steamer and steam for about 3 minutes. Serve warm as-is.
Potato Salad: Potato salad has been popular for many generations. During the forties and fifties there were many variations to potato salad. Some recipes included parsley and canned green beans. Other recipes included sliced ham or chopped egg. To keep with the theme of the plainness of many forties menu items, this recipe is rich but simple.
Ingredients – 1 package of Baby New Potatoes, 2 Tb Low-Fat Mayonnaise, 1 handful of chopped Dill, ½ Onion, 1 Tb of Mustard, Salt, Pepper
Wash potatoes and place in a medium-sized pot. Fill the pot with water so that potatoes are covered and bring water to boil. Once boiling, cover the pot with a lid and lower heat to medium-high and set timer for 15 minutes. While potatoes cook, finely chop dill and onion, set aside. Check to see if potatoes are boiled and add additional minutes to the timer if they need more time. Once potatoes are boiled, drain and store in the fridge until cool.
When cool, cut potatoes into quarters and place in a salad bowl. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and all remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for 12 hours prior to serving.
Baked Fried Chicken: Now fried chicken is a classic southern U.S. recipe that has remained popular to this day. In many restaurants this item has had a comeback in recent years and can be seen on breakfast and dinner menus alike! Though it’s a delicious treat, fried food is no friend to the environment or our diets. This recipe will allow you to enjoy the juiciness of fried chicken without any deep frying required.
Ingredients – 4 boneless/skinless Chicken Breasts, 1 cup of Flower, 1 cup of Panko Bread Crumbs, 1 Tsp Salt, 1 Tsp Pepper, 1 Tb Garlic Powder, 1 Tb Chilli Powder, Honey, 1 Egg, Sriracha sauce, 3 Tb Coconut Oil
Note: The first time I made this recipe, I cut the chicken into strips to make baked chicken fingers. Though they were crispy, cutting the chicken made the chicken too dry. I highly recommend baking the chicken breasts as-is.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Crack open egg and beat in a medium-size bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flower, panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chilli powder. Using a cookie sheet, grease the cookie sheet with coconut oil. Soak each chicken breast in egg yolk and then role the chicken breast in the breaded mixture so that all areas are covered. Once oven is pre-heated, place breaded chicken on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden. After 15 minutes, flip the chicken and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until fully cooked.
While chicken is baking, mix Sriracha and honey to your taste buds’ desire. If you prefer heat, add more hot sauce. If you prefer something sweet, vice versa! This mixture can be served as a dipping sauce for the chicken.
Berry Cobbler: Another American classic, the cobbler has many nicknames, be it ‘crisp’, ‘betty’ or ‘crumble’. Though the above recipes all have a healthy twist, because it’s dessert, I have left this recipe completely traditional.
Ingredients – 1 Can of Blueberry Pie Filling, 2 cups of Raspberries, 1 cup of Blackberries, 1 cup of Softened Butter, 2 cups of Flower, 1 tsp Baking Powder, pinch of Salt, 1 ½ cups of Brown Sugar, 1 Tb Cinnamon, Chocolate Ice Cream
Rinse berries and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a 14” by 9” heatproof glass baking pan, pour the can of blueberry pie filling evenly over the bottom of the pan. Add raspberries and blackberries and mix into the filling. In a baking bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together until creamy. Slowly add the flour and baking powder into the butter/sugar mixture until all ingredients have combined. The mixture should resemble a crumble if mixed correctly. Pour the crumble evenly over the top of the berry filling. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with a scoop of chocolate ice cream!