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February 17, 2010

Mid-Century Menu – Lenten Tuna & Potatoes, Garden Vegetable Jello and Spice Cake!

Welcome, everyone to the Mid-Century Menu, the fiendish feature of No Pattern Required in which Tom and I make and eat a dinner from a vintage mid-century cookbook.  And usually not a good dinner, either.  Usually it is pretty scary.

This week we are visiting the Carnation’s Family Favorites cookbook again for another “great” meal made with evaporated milk. We have already delved into this book this year for the Corn and Sausage Casserole, which ended up being only memorable for the excellent Pineapple Upside-Down Cake at the end. 

This time we decided to cook along with the date, so for this Ash Wednesday we choose Lenten Tuna and Potato Casserole with Garden Vegetable Salad and Spice Cake with Broiled Frosting for dessert. 

As a side note, if you have ever wondered what the heck evaporated milk is, wonder no more.  It is simply regular milk that has had half of the water evaporated from it under vaccum conditions, and then is homonogized and canned. If you want to learn more about Carnation Evaporated Milk, check out this Wikipeida entry, and the information on the Carnation website. As a side note, Carnation is now owned by the uber-international-mega company, Nestle, and the milk is technically Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk.

Ah. Ahhhhhh! Orange and horseradish jello??? Sooo…cold.  Is this what fear feels like???

You know what, instead of just showing you the recipes, I am also going to show you guys what got me through the making of this meal. Yup, that’s right, my security blanket:

The Apron-Wearing Banana.

Whenever you get grossed out, think of the Banana.  Garden Vegetable Salad too much for you?  Banana. Just be calm.  What would the Banana do?  Why, he would be completely calm and happy, even when doing something maniacal, like slinging French dressing over a bowl of rice and pineapples.

I am one with the Banana.

Let’s do this.

Wow.  Cooking from scratch uses A LOT of ingredients.

…and the orange jello is quickly ruined, with a tsp of mustard powder and a tsp of garlic salt.

Sob!  Oh my god!  Okay, calm down.  Think Banana. Calm and happy, like the Banana.

Hydrating the jello.  The funkiest smell came off of this.

The other jello ingredients, waiting calmly to be ruined by the egg-white consistency mustard-garlic-orange jello.

Ok, ok. Banana. Banana.

Banana!! Banana!!

Whew.  Ok.  On to the cake.

The shortening, sugar, eggs and molasses, creamed together.  Then I added the milk/vineger mix and…

Oh. Goody.  Completely curdled. Hooray.

But sifted dry ingredients with save the day!

See?  Mostly all better.

Looks pretty good in the pan. I was very happy at this point, no Banana needed.

Here it is, baked with the un-broiled frosting on it, ready and waiting for dessert time.

On to the main course! 

The melted butter and flour in my “double boiler”, which is just a metal bowl in a saucepan.  I know, not that classy, but it works just fine. 

What I really want is a vintage Corningware glass double boiler.  What?  You’ve never seen one?  Well, just come back to the blog on Friday, I will have pictures for you!

No matter how many times I make a white sauce on this blog, I am always fascinated by the magic.  See, liquid.  And now….

Cream sauce!  Ta-da!

The rest of the Lenten Tuna ingredients.  I didn’t peel the potatoes because I wanted it to be more nutritious.  And the recipe didn’t tell me to. And because I am lazy.

Pouring the cream sauce over.  Looks okay so far.

Thanks, Banana, but I don’t need you here!

Stirred up.

Ok, where is that Banana now?  I didn’t have American cheese that shredded, so I used sliced.  It would be okay except it is really….shiny.

Here we go!  Finished dinner!  Lenten Tuna straight from the oven and the Garden Vegetable Jello (shudder) plated and ready to go.  Cake, broiling in the oven.

Tom, taking his first bite.

It was the Garden Vegetable Jello, of course.  The scariest one.

“So…how is it?”

“I…don’t know. What is in this?”

“Stuff,”  I said, “Mustard powder, garlic, onions, lemon juice..”

“Okay, that’s enough.”

“…horseradish, green pepper, celery, carrots, evaporated milk…”


A BIG bite of Lenten potatoes and…

Moderate sucess.

“How is it?”

“Oh, there it is. The cigarette-butt taste of American cheese.”

With that, I dug in.  The Lenten Tuna was ok, the pimentoes were kind of gross in it, but otherwise fine.  Tom has a hatred of American cheese, but I don’t mind it so it wasn’t too bad.

The big surprise was the Garden Vegetable Jello.

After my second bite of it, I looked up in surprise.  “Is this…good??”

Tom nodded happily, “I wouldn’t go as far as “good”, but I think this is the best jello salad we have had so far.  And it is way better than the Lenten Tuna thing. See, this is what happens when you pray before dinner.  You get good jello salad.”

Maybe he was right.  But I happen to think it was the power of Banana…I mean…positive thinking.

The Verdict:

Lenten Tuna – Eh. Not terrible, but not exciting to eat.  I would leave out the pimentoes and stir the cheese into the white sauce next time.

Garden Vegetable Salad – Surprisingly edible. Not quite “Good”, but pretty darn close. Acccording to Tom, it tasted like spicy orange juice.  It reminded me of a strawberry spinach salad with balsamic dressing: sweet, savory and spicy.  Not sure if I would make it again, but it wasn’t a trial to eat.

Spice Cake With Broiled Frosting – Really good. According to Tom, it tasted like a really good carrot cake without the carrots in it.  The broiled frosting was good, especially when the cake was still warm from the broiler.  I don’t think I left it in long enough because the top really hadn’t caramelized, so be brave and broil it for the entire recommended time.

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11 Responses to Mid-Century Menu – Lenten Tuna & Potatoes, Garden Vegetable Jello and Spice Cake!

  1. Sara in AZ Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

    But…..where are the banana’s arms? 🙂 I do love me an apron wearing banana! He he to – cigarette-butt taste of American cheese. I was really terrified about the whole the whole Garden Vegetable Jello, so I am glad it turned out, at least, OK. Thanks for the super fun read Ruth!

  2. Deb Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    You’re both so brave to do this – and Ruth, for taking all the time to prepare it all!!

  3. sablemable Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    OMG! I usually like vegetable jello salad, but this?

    LOL @ cigarette butt taste! LOL!

  4. RetroRuth Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks, guys! Whew, glad that one is over. 🙂 Except for the leftovers…

  5. Andrea Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I am dying with laughter at “be one with the Banana”. Too funny!! I am also dying with laughter at the “cigarette butt taste” – such an apt description!

  6. Paulette Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    ROFLOL! Banana!! Amazing that the salad was halfway decent. I share Tom’s dislike of American cheese (back when I could eat dairy products anyway).

  7. Amy Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I still can’t grasp the yellow with mustard and garlic in it, yep we have evaporated milk here so I know what it is. You guys are brave trying all these lol

  8. Mattenylou Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    I love seeing the expressions on his face every week, priceless! I remember evaporated milk from 50 years ago… we fed it to the cats….

  9. Annie B. Reply

    February 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    That was a lot of work there, Ruth! No wonder that banana has to wear an apron. The wonders of jello and evaporated milk never cease! Thanks for another MC Menu hoot! That cake looks great! Try spice cake with coffee icing sometime….I remember that combo from my mid century childhood..really good!

  10. viridian Reply

    March 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been visiting off and on since the infamous egg and olive penguins. Are my eyes deceiving me or is Tom looking thinner and waner?

    How did mid-century husbands survive? Maybe all the martinis and old fashioneds?

  11. RetroRuth Reply

    March 4, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! This one was blast to make.

    Virdian – Tom IS getting thinner, but not because of my cooking. 🙂 Contrary to the belief out there, I do feed him! Seriously though, Tom is getting thinner because he is training for an ultramarathon in late spring. He has been running like 100+ miles a week and burns calories like crazy!

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