Vintage Cookbooks

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I have a serious addiction…to cookbooks! In addition to contemporary cookbooks, I started collecting vintage cookbooks a couple of years ago and I apparently can’t stop. :) I think if I don’t purchase another cookbook ever, I’ll still have enough to last me a lifetime. Do I need help yet? At least I don’t spend a lot on these vintage cookbooks. The average price I pay per book is $2, which is a deal, right? The problem I have is that I’m running out of room. So I tell myself not to add any more cookbooks to my collection. That’s it, Chris! No more cookbooks! Well, guess what I walked out with two days ago when I checked out a local resale store? Two more cookbooks! It was buy one get one free – I paid $1 for two vintage Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. Like I said, a serious addiction!!! :)

One of my current favorite vintage cookbooks is “The American Woman’s Cook Book.” It’s in pretty bad shape but it’s a treasure trove of recipes. My awesome boss and friend, Cindy (knowing that I love vintage cookbooks), rescued it from the free pile basket two book sales ago at the library. It cost nothing – you can’t beat that! I have to admit though that I was a little grossed out by the condition of the book initially but I’ve since gotten over my aversion. :) Thank you so much once again, Cindy!

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Friendship

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Our mail carrier delivered a package to our door today. It turned out to be a surprise care package from my wonderful and dearest friend, Bonnie! She had heard, I’m assuming from her husband, who probably heard from Keith how stressed I’ve been these past couple of months (our husbands were housemates back in our college days). In her usual thoughtful and caring way, she put together a care package for me (with a little something for Alex too – thank you Auntie Bonnie!). I was extremely surprised and really touched by her beautiful gesture. Bonnie, thank you for thinking of me and you absolutely made my day! I’m truly blessed to have you as a friend!

xxx
Chris

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Rustic Apple Tart with Homemade Crust

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Hello, everyone! It has been a while again – too many things have happened since the last time I checked in. A week after we discovered ice damage in our family room, we found the same problem in one of our bedrooms! So, we’ve been dealing with on-going repairs of these two rooms for more than a month now. It’s getting really old, let me tell you. The furniture is all over the place. The living room is a mess! Nothing is where it should be. It’s driving me up the wall! Aaaarrrggghhh!!! In fact, that was exactly what I said to Keith just ten minutes ago. :) The end is in sight though…we are almost done with the indoor repairs…almost. Now, if only the weather would just cooperate, we would be able to get the necessary roof work done as well so I wouldn’t have to continue to worry about new damages. But that would just be too easy, wouldn’t it? Keith is probably wondering who is this shrew he’s married to and I’m wondering why doesn’t he have any magical powers to fix this problem in a nanosecond, LOL! Truthfully, he helps keep me calm and grounded, although I can feel the calmness slipping away, Hon! ;)

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Alex went through another bout of sickness two and a half weeks ago, which was supposedly our spring break week (although we homeschool, I try to follow our school district’s calendar). He had high fever and the works, again, and it went on the entire week. By the fifth day, I was wondering if he’ll ever get over this virus, which he did, just in time for school of course. Poor kiddo! As for me, I took the opportunity to cook in bulk and freeze. I didn’t bake much and I definitely didn’t document anything I did. Sorry, guys!

I did however, take photos of the apple tart I made last Friday. The filling was delicious, if I may say so? :) However, the crust didn’t turn out exactly the way I had hoped. It’s your typical all-butter pie crust but with a little addition of baking powder. The baking powder is supposed to make the crust extra light and crispy, which it did partially. The top part turned out exactly that but the bottom layer, I felt was harder than crisp which made the tart hard to cut through. Keith and I talked about it and in hindsight, we think the problem is actually not the crust itself, but the layer of cranberry sauce I spread on the dough before piling up the apple. We think that the sauce actually caramelized, therefore making the bottom layer hard, instead of light and crispy. So, I’m not tossing the recipe into the lost cause pile yet but will give it one more try another time. Meanwhile, I’m going to note what I’ve done here…so feel free to just ignore it. You can also try making the tart with your favorite pie crust recipe or store-bought crust like I did in the Easy Rustic Apple Tart post. Have a great week!

Love,
Chris

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Pie Crust {The original Light Crispy Pie Crust recipe can be found in The Lazy Days of Summer Cookbook by Jane Watson Hopping}
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup cold unsalted butter

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add about ½ cup cold water (or more if needed) a little at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. (I find this to be the trickiest part of making a pie – check often towards the end, the dough is just right when it’s moist enough to hold together under slight pressure.) Divide the dough in half and roll each half to about 11½ to 12 inches wide in between two parchment sheets, occasionally peeling back the parchment to prevent creases on the dough. Place dough (still in between parchments) on a large baking sheet. Chill until firm.

Apple Filling
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 pounds Golden Delicious or Gala apples (5 to 6), peeled, cored, sliced ¼ inch thick
⅔ cup cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine light brown sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl, then stir in the apples until they are evenly coated with the sugar mixture. Remove pie dough from the fridge. Working with one pie dough at a time, place the dough on a large baking sheet. Remove the top parchment paper, spread ⅓ cup cranberry sauce on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge (since we think this may have caused the hard bottom crust, I will skip this step in the future). Place half the apple filling on top of the cranberry sauce. Fold the dough over the apples, pleating it every inch or two (if dough is still too firm, let sit for a few more minutes). Lightly brush top of dough with water, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar. Repeat with the other dough. Bake tarts until crust is golden and crisp, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool tarts on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then use the parchment paper or large spatula to transfer the tarts directly onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie

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What do you mean, we can have our oatmeal and drink it too? :) With strawberries nonetheless, which just reminds me of spring.

Spring can’t come fast enough for us this year. February had been absolutely brutal with its extreme cold and mountains of snow. Not only that, Alex and Keith got sick although both have finally recovered. Just in time for the next challenge, of course – ice damage on the roof which soaked part of the ceiling, wall, and carpet in our family room! According to the insurance adjuster, ours is not the only home in the area having this problem but somehow, that didn’t feel too comforting. So at the moment, we have huge gaping holes in the ceiling and wall where wet drywall and insulation had to be removed. Let’s not mention the giant water stain on the carpet. :( The biggest challenge right now is to keep the inside dry while Mother Nature melts the ice outside. Like I said, spring can’t come fast enough for us this year!

Since there’s nothing much we can do until the ice is gone, let’s take a moment and savor this delicious, full of goodness smoothie and dream of warmer days to come. ;) To spring!

½ cup quick oats
1 cup milk (I use vanilla soy milk)
Frozen whole strawberries
Additional milk (again, I use soy milk)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste

Combine the first two ingredients – oats and milk in a medium, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, pour strawberries into the blender until about the 6-cup line (we have a 6-cup blender). Add milk to about the 2½-cup line, and then add the cooked oatmeal (you don’t have to wait until it’s cool), salt, and sugar. Cover and blend until smooth and thick. Makes about two to three glasses of smoothie, depending on the size of your glass.

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Ang Pow

The best part of Chinese New Year when you are a kid is definitely the ang pows! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Ang Pow Na Lai. ;)

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Happy Chinese New Year!

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CNY Eve Dinner

Here are some dishes I made tonight…there were eight courses in all! I was actually aiming for nine, lol. Yes, I’m insane…insane for even contemplating doing it. However, it is a family tradition and I find that as I get older, tradition becomes increasingly important. And the best part is – there is enough food probably for the next five days. :)

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Celebrating Chinese New Year

It’s Chinese New Year Eve today! In Malaysia, we would have a huge family reunion dinner tonight to start the celebration but in the States, it would just be the three of us. :) Normally, we would invite close friends to celebrate with us but Alex has been sick with the flu…so no invitations went out this year.

To get in the mood, I put up some festive decorations this morning. I also set out a few treats (nothing homemade this year) and the first thing Alex inquired about when he saw all these was of course, the “ang pow.” For those of you who are not familiar with the term, “ang pow” simply refers to the money-filled red packet that one receives on CNY. Well, at least the kiddo remembers something about CNY, I guess. :) Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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Banana-Nut Muffins

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It’s always a wonderful feeling when a simple recipe yields fantastic results. I recently purchased a used Southern Living cookbook titled “The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook” for two bucks. :) I told Keith I couldn’t not buy the book. I mean it’s Southern Living’s ultimate cookbook…it says so in the title. Lol, that got a chuckle out of him.

Anyway, I was flipping through the book, looking for a new recipe to use all the ripe bananas sitting on our counter when I saw the banana-nut muffins recipe. Simple and unpretentious, I wondered if the muffins would turn out just bland and one-dimensional. However, I love simple recipes and this one was calling out to me to give it a go.

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My kiddo decided to join me on this baking jaunt. :) Although the kitchen always ends up messier and the prep time takes longer when that happens, the time we get to spend together is absolutely priceless. Alex was a fabulous helper – mashing up the bananas, chopping the nuts, and getting all the dry ingredients together. Surprisingly, the muffins turned out really delicious for such a simple recipe. They were moist, light, not too sweet (just the way I like my muffins), and had the perfect amount of banana flavor. This recipe is a keeper! Enjoy!

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{Slightly adapted from the Banana-Nut Muffins recipe in The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook}
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe banana
½ cup milk
⅓ cup extra light olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped walnuts plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with baking cups (tip: spraying baking cups with cooking spray will prevent muffins from sticking to the paper). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center, and add egg, mashed banana, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Stir just until moistened, then stir in the walnuts. Fill the muffin pan, dividing the batter evenly. Sprinkle the top with more chopped walnuts (optional). Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer muffins to a cooling rack.

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Sweet Potato Dessert Two Ways

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Happy New Year! Sweet potatoes in coconut milk and sweet potatoes in sugared water are two Asian-style desserts I grew up with. The first is essentially “Bubur Cha Cha” (which is sweet potatoes and taro in coconut milk) minus the taro simply because I prefer it to be all sweet potatoes. That’s the beauty of making the foods yourself – you can make them EXACTLY the way you like it. :) I tend to make mine a little less sweet than how most locals favor them as well. Not only that, I prefer a higher liquid to potatoes ratio than what is typical and you will see these adjustments in my recipes. Feel free to change them to your taste. Usually, I’m more partial to the plainer sweet potatoes in sugared water over the richer coconut milk version, but on days when you can’t decide, make both like I did this time. Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato in Coconut Milk
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1½ cans coconut milk (about 21 fluid ounces)
¼ cup sugar
A pinch of salt
2 pandan leaves, rinsed and knotted, optional

Place sweet potatoes and 1 tablespoon water in a microwavable casserole dish. Microwave covered on High until sweet potatoes are tender (easily pierced) but still hold their shape, about 4 minutes, stirring twice. Uncover and set aside until needed. Place coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pandan leaves (if using) in a medium saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sweet potatoes and let it come to a boil once again. Remove from heat, and serve warm or cold.

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Sweet Potato Soup
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
3½ cups water
1 slice fresh ginger, optional
2 pandan leaves, rinsed and knotted, optional
¼ cup sugar or to taste

Place sweet potatoes, water, ginger (if using), and pandan leaves (if using) in a medium saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Add sugar to taste. Remove from heat, and serve warm or cold.

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