Decades of kitchen fun

During kindergarten recess, I would anxiously visit their kitchen, have a seat while waiting for the best in plastic cuisine presented to me. There were several cooks involved in the process; a far more elaborate setting than my early 1960’s, childhood kitchen. They would fight when offering me the best to eat from their own personal menus. It was a constant argument between pizza, chocolate chip cookies, donuts with sprinkles or just candy. Sometimes I would get juice…half filled. Now, without being in school with friends, they are probably learning the real art of cooking in the family kitchen with Mom. I loved my childhood kitchen and after watching a home movie, I realized that I, too, wanted to be in charge, just like my kindergarten friends.

Made in the early 1960’s, mine was not metal like some, but the made from Sears brand that many had in white or pink corrugated cardboard with red, plastic handles that was easy to move. The set included a stove, with glow burners, oven, cupboard, sink with running water and refrigerator. I don’t remember the cups, saucers and other utensils except for a metal coffee pot and a aluminum baking pan for cupcakes. Vintage play food was not as extravagant as it is now. Pizza and chocolate chip cookies were not a big item on the list. My collection included lots of fruits and I did have a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, in the early 1990’s, my daughter did not have a kitchen but her best friend who lived right next door did. They had a special bowl and ingredients to make alphabet soup. She also had a Fischer Price Sizzle and Glow that the girls would try to relocate outside during nice weather but this was electronic. She had a muffin container too. However, they came with the finished product;  great looking frosted cupcakes with maraschino cherries.

Today, play kitchens are not that different with the exception of having a microwave oven, refrigerator ice dispenser and no corrugated cardboard designs. Many are being crafted from high quality wood. Mine went for about 15 dollars. Today, 200 is the average price to fulfill your child or grandchild’s dream of having the best kitchen in the community. During another article soon, we will talk about the best of childhood grocery stores…found right in your home! Pickup and delivery was available even back in the day.

 

Popcorn gains from Chicago Connections

By Caryl Clem:

Popcorn’s early history dates back to worshiping the Maize with popcorn adorned headdresses and rain gods.  Today’s mass consumption of this snack is a combination of ingenuity, determination and old fashioned hustling.  January 19th is National Popcorn day.

Early popping corn was risky, often greasy, or partially burned and inedible until Charles Cretors invented a steam popcorn machine wagon. He moved his family to Chicago in 1885 to expand his business.  During the Columbia World Exposition in 1893, fresh popcorn vendor wagons were introduced. C Cretors and Company of Chicago featured popcorn flavors that won instant approval. Charles previously sold peanuts before the popcorn venture, his recipe combined molasses, peanuts and popcorn. The cheery red wagon that popped fresh popcorn could be pulled by a boy or pony was open for business anywhere a crowd gathered.

Two German immigrant brothers were determined to obtain financial success in Chicago. After their first business burned to the ground that was located South Clinton Street in 1885, they rebuilt and expanded their business using wagon vendors.  Again the combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses from a recipe they construed in 1871 became a staple of their success.  A box decorated by a patriotic sailor with a slang term meaning the best, “Cracker Jack” originated their popcorn snack.  The Chicago Tribune on March 8, 1896 featured an article proclaiming that to taste the Rueckheim Brothers popcorn would lead to an obsession, “Do Not Taste It,” read the ridiculous headline. “If you do, you will part with your money easy.”   Expanding the popularity of the product, jobbers went to grocers, drug stores and retail merchants to obtain orders.  By 1908 a song embracing the joy of baseball, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” quoted, “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” cemented the bond between games and snacking.

As America fought two wars, sugar shortages narrowed the choices for snack treats. The Great Depression brought poverty to the majority. A bag of popcorn was between 5 and 10 cents, a luxury most could afford.  Farmers and vendors were able to make a meager living off popcorn.  Cracker Jack started offering prizes inside their boxes to corner the market.

Movie theaters were against serving food to prevent littering the atmosphere of richness and prosperity that dominated the early movie houses.  After the Great Depression, movie theaters struggled to survive.  In the 1930’s from Glen Dickson  manager of a theater in the Midwest area, Julia Braden in Kansas City, Mo.,  and R. J. McKenna in the west: all  saved their businesses by selling popcorn inside the theater to increase profit margins.  Now a movie is associated with the smell of buttery popcorn. Children’s movies and suspense dramas sold the most popcorn.

Since the microwave introduced popcorn in 1981, popcorn starts to dominate the fix at home snack market. Orville Redenbacher in 1965 is selling his popcorn out of his car as he travels to supermarkets across the Midwest.  Family cooks can make snack foods . Options to make your own popping corn are at your fingertips. Range or stove Popcorn is easy to make and offers many flavorful seasonings.

If you want to buy, the top selling brand today is Chicago’s own Garrett Popcorn ShopsChicago, ILThe Cretors family has modernized its market to open Cornfields, Inc.  a healthy snack manufacturer and producer of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny brands.

No matter what your choice, Chicago offers the best popcorn!

The best chocolate drinks

I was not an addict of soft drinks but I could not live without chocolate in any form…even today. I loved mixing Nestles Quick chocolate in my milk drinking cold or warm. I loved eating restaurant bought chocolate shakes or chocolate phosphates along with my hamburger..no fries.. from childhood on.

If Mom bought Bordens Dutch Chocolate, it was usually for a special occasion. Real cocoa that was poured right from the carton and is still sold today. Some may remember Bosco Chocolate syrup which was invented in 1928 in Camden, NJ by an unknown physician. The William S. Scull Company, a company founded in 1831 in Camden, NJ, acquired the manufacturing license. The Scull Company’s most famous product was Boscul Coffee, which gave the product its brand name, “Bosco”. In the 1950s, Corn Products Company acquired Bosco, and Bosco Products, Inc. acquired the brand in 1985.

And I loved Kayo, a bottled chocolate drink named for Kayo Mullins in the Moon Mullins comic strip. In 1929, Mr Aaron Pashkow created Kayo made from skim milk and chocolate syrup, selling his business in 1964 here in Chicago. For many years, Kayo was sold in a bottle then a can. Kayo is currently sold as a powder delivering steaming mugs of delightful hot chocolate, temptingly sweet and richly aromatic. It can be added to coffee to make a delicious mocha or chocolate rush.

And if you are looking for a little alcohol to celebrate the holidays, the Chocolate Martini is highly recommended. Drizly offers a great recipe for this decadent drink. Another favorite of many chocolate lovers is the Chocolate Margarita that uses Godiva chocolate liqueur. Chocolate is not reserved for new cocktails today but has been a long time classic used to make the Brandy Alexander. This creamy delight has been a go-to after-dinner drink and you’ll love the mix of brandy and dark crème de cacao.

Today, some of the best hot chocolate drinks are the French hot chocolate; the recipe is almost like sipping chocolate overseas and truly a luxury on a cold evening. Another great hot homemade chocolate starts from real chopped chocolate cut by hand and incorporates in milk just perfectly. Fifteen spatualas has a wonderful recipe and shows you how to refrigerate for up to three days.

The Good Old Days: Grandparents and Thanksgiving

Kempton was always known as the small town with the big heart; the town of my mother’s family beginnings; her grandparents, my grandmother who had passed away in 1958, aunts, uncles and my great aunt, Lulu Pearl. My earliest memories of Kempton were on Thanksgiving Day at Aunt Lu’s two bedroom corner, blue cottage neatly painted in white trim. A vegetable garden was meticulously maintained in the back with her specialties of beets and tomatoes while well-trimmed shrubs surrounded the foundation of the home.

Coming from the city, my immediate family was always the first to arrive while Aunt Lu called the others to join us on her believe it or not box phone with crank and real receptionist named Jenny. That gave me plenty of time to cut out the latest Betsy McCall and her clothes. After the rest of the family arrived, we took our places behind the long table in the dining room eating from her blue willow dishes. Pumpkin pie was always her winning recipe.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break is Grandparents Day at school; a wonderful time for those traveling to see their grandchildren. For our district, Grandparents Day is usually one of the biggest attended events with just grandparents…not sons or daughters who have kindergarten or early elementary children. Just for Grandma,  Grandpa and Grand friends…sometimes Aunts or Uncles if Grandma can’t attend. Over 300 attended today. Many become new Grandparents on that day for children who do not have a guest. A study out of the University of Oxford found children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.

Though she never learned to drive, Aunt Lu would find her way to our house in the city by my cousin every summer. I could always count on a game of Yahtzee every time I offered and she always made the best fried potatoes in town. Because of unpredictable weather, the winter months were generally confined to her little town in Kempton but one year she came to stay and had arrived two days after Christmas. It was unusual for her to venture out in the cold months but my father was in the hospital. Children were not allowed to visit during the 1960’s and Aunt Lu felt she could help.

During her first night’s visit, the phone had disturbed our usual game of Yahtzee and after that I found that Aunt Lu could offer so much more than games. It was a nurse from the hospital; my father had passed away. Though I was 12 and tried to be adult, Aunt Lu let me cry as long as it took, keeping her arms around me, never tiring or disturbing me from my tears. What incredible timing for Aunt Lu’s calming patience in such a terrible storm. Ten years later, Aunt Lu passed away after passionately celebrating her 90th birthday with her family.

Today, I appreciate the towering strength she provided that day and the strenuous days that followed; never perceiving the no pomp and circumstance woman as one of the most salient women I was blessed to know. And I try to follow her loving example everyday reminding myself that every tragedy as has a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Exploring Native American cuisine

Caryl Clem:

Authentic Native American cooking varies from region to region, recipes adapted to what the surrounding environment supplied.  Traditional cooking consists of four phases since the Native Americans were forced from original homelands under the Dawes Act as groups escaped government control forming new communities in new territories. Historically cooking techniques and methods fall into the pre-contact era before men from Europe were exploring, first contact with settlements, after Indian Removal’s “Trail of Tears” mid-1800’s reservations given rationed food, lastly emergence of Native American owned restaurants featuring indigenous dishes during the last 25 years.

The top chefs from 566 recognized tribes are publishing cookbooks, opening catering businesses, food trucks and restaurants. Red Mesa Cuisine, operated by Kiowa Nation, offers recipes from all generation.  Travel from the past and back at your own dining table. Mouthwatering choices include plank broiled smoked salmon or bison, marinated bison served with Cajun style sauces, Succotash,  blueberry cornmeal mush, wild berry glaze, acorn bread, and fry bread. During the forced containment of the Navajo at Bosque Redondo during 1864-68, the Native Americans created a food staple from the rationed flour known as Fry Bread. Starting as a humble food stretcher to accompany every meal, its popularity spread from coast to coast. Now Fry Bread rivals the lasagna, potatoes, noodles, or rice to earn a place of honor during any culinary feast.

If you are a road warrior blazing asphalt trails, famous Native American cuisine can be found in Albuquerque NM,  Seattle WA,  Denver CO,  Colorado Springs CO,  Santa Fe NM, Minneapolis MN,  Phoenix  AZ ,  Geyersville California, Washington D.C. to name a few. The oldest cooks in America are the new “in” must have taste. Stopping to dine ranges from a Smithsonian museum buffet style restaurant or luxurious hotel while savoring the “harvest”.  For the hands on, do it yourself readers, the following cookbooks were on multiple cites as favorites by the cookbook buying consumers. Bon Appetite!!

THE SIOUX CHEF’S INDIGENOUS KITCHEN BY SEAN SHERMAN AND BETH DOOLEY

THE MITSITAM CAFE COOKBOOK BY RICHARD HETZLER

 MODERN NATIVE FEASTS: HEALTHY, INNOVATIVE, SUSTAINABLE CUISINE BY ANDREW GEORGE JR.

 WHERE PEOPLE FEAST: AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S COOKBOOK BY DOLLY WATTS AND ANNIE WATTS

ORIGINAL LOCALINDIGENOUS FOODS, STORIES, AND RECIPES FROM THE UPPER MIDWEST BY HEID E. ERDRICH

Amber Bakery and Dressels

When getting cakes for birthday parties as a child for the kids, they were decorated beautifully. And it was always Ambers for the kids birthday party or school functions; a yellow cake with white frosting. Though I think I liked their cookies the best! The Ambers family lived across the street, owning a duplex and living on the second floor. I baby sat for the family that lived on the first floor. Ambers owned two shops; the South Shore location was at 2326 East 71st street and 9157 South Commercial Ave; the last address was the one we visited. Ambers did sponsor many school functions and celebrated the opening of Buckingham school in 1962.

I was never a strong cake lover because my favorite dessert, even to this day, is ice cream. Just recently, I read that ice cream is good for breakfast…can’t picture that yet. However, Dressels, really changed all that and a wonderful article in Lost Recipes actually has a home recipe for their chocolate whip cream cake. Mom would have this cake at parties when the adults were present. And Dressels was one of the first where their chocolate cream cake could be purchased and frozen called frig-freez cake. It was delicious and I passed.. on ice cream.. when we had Dressels.

Dressels were originally made in Chicago at a plant on the south side. William Dressel left home with his brother, Joseph, in Wisconsin,  to start a business in Chicago in 1913. Herman, their other brother, joined them 10 years later. There first bakery was at 33rd and Wallace developing the first whipped cream cake. In the 1940’s, Dressels was selling over 10,000 cakes per week and by 1963, Dressels was celebrating their 50th Anniversary. Dressels was also a leader in frozen foods with  annual sales of 3.5 million. Later in 1963, the firm was sold and expanded by American Bakeries Inc.

The Dressel’s cake is still being made at Wolf’s Bakery in Evergreen Park, which has been serving baked goods since 1939. In fact, Wolf’s Bakery at 3241 W. 95th St. has been selling its version of the cake since 2009. Many customers have commented that the cake tastes exactly the same.

Even though the hours are early morning as I write with my coffee, I am getting hungry. Not for breakfast food or ice cream either!!

Spike Mendelsohn introduces the Flipp app and a new recipe

I walked into the Good Stuff Eatery at 22 South Wabash Ave just a few blocks from Millennium Park. I was extremely interested in visiting since the thought of delicious burgers and hand-spun shakes was my chosen favorite food since childhood. The Chicago location of the Good Stuff Eatery opened in 2015 after winning the Chicago Gourmet’s 2014 Hamburger Hop. The Prez burger (President Obama) won the Judge’s Choice Award. The pilot store of Good Stuff Eatery opened on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in July 2008. This was a family operation owned by the Mendelsohn family with the son, Spike Mendelsohn, at the helm.

Spike is better known, to many, as a celebrity chef. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Spike worked with some of the world’s most renowned chefs and eventually made his television debut on Bravo TV’s Top Chef. Spike went on to appear on several other cooking-related shows, including Life After Top Chef, Iron Chef America, Late Night Chef Fight and Beat Bobby Flay. He also hosted Midnight Feastand Food Network’s Kitchen Sink.

The Good Stuff in Washington became a favorite of President Barack Obama’s which inspired Spike to write a cookbook called The Good Stuff cookbook. Following the opening of the Good Stuff Eatery, Spike opened up We, The Pizza, Béarnaise and Santa Rosa Taqueria.

Today, Spike talks about shopping tips and tricks for the Fourth of July and some of the unique resources available when finding the best prices. That includes the free Flipp app for IOS and Android. You can search weekly ads, coupons and navigate through your favorite stores. The app allows you to check out specific foods or browse a variety of retailers. Once you download the app and add your location, Flipp will locate the stores in your area and you can click on your favorite store to explore its best deals. You can tap a retailer, check out the coupons and load them to your loyalty cards. There are thousands of retailers available including Kroger, Walmart, Big Lots, CVS Pharmacy, Aldi’s, Family Dollar, Home Depot, Loews and Dicks Sporting Goods to name a few.

Spike is truly passionate in giving back to the community; something he was taught at an early age. He has a genuine desire for providing food equity and help others purchase healthy food while saving time and money. Flipp offers shoppers a way to plan and budget for groceries but still choose quality instead of just running into your favorite store at the end of day and choosing items on sale. Spike commented on a Flipp feature where you type milk or peanut butter into the program and a variety of milk options will be displayed such as almond milk or organic peanut butter that demonstrates the Flipp app is focused on quality as well as excellent prices.

Spike came to Chicago because of his sister going to school here when opening the Good Stuff Eatery downtown. He loves to travel and is the first chairman of the Washington DC Food Policy Council where he continually helps to improve school lunches and speaks out in groups that encourage healthy eating.

I enjoyed the Prez burger that was made with apple-wood bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese, and horseradish mayo. The Chocoholic Shake was, by far, the best. The next time I would like to try the Compass Coffee Shake since coffee is another drink I cannot live without. For the holiday, Spike shared a special recipe below for Mahalo sliders that you can make at home. Consequently, I am planning my own July 4th menu which will include homemade Mahalo burgers with barbecue sauce and pineapple,cucumber slaw. And it has never been so easy and cost effective. My new Flipp app will even tell me when store sales will be ending so I know exactly when I should plan my shopping time.

Mahalo Sliders
– 4 pounds Ground Beef of your choice, leaner the better for sliders, less shrinking
– 1 teaspoon of cayenne
– 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
– 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
– salt/pepper to taste
– 1 tbl olive oil
– cheddar cheese slices for melting

* use a large bowl and add all of your ground meat and break it up, add all seasonings, parsley flakes, oil and mix around aggressively. Using a small scale patty up 2 oz burgers and place on a sheet tray. Season with salt and pepper.

Hawaii roles 2- 12 pcks or enough for everyone to have at least two sliders.
– using butter spray, spray your buns before grilling.

Pineapple Cucumber Slaw
– 2 cups pineapple, small dice
– 2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
– 1 medium cucumber, peeled and small diced
– 1/4 cup red onion, small diced
-1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
– 2 tablespoon lime juice
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– salt and pepper to taste

*In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside

Bbq Sauce
– 2 cups bbq sauce
– 1 tbl of chipotle in can
– 2 tbl of Apple Cider Vinegar
– 1 tbl Molasses

*Add all of these ingredients in a bowl and whisk vigorously, season with salt and pepper…

Assembly
– Make sure to grill the burger only for a minute on each side. Melt cheddar cheese
– toast Hawaiian rolls
– add burgers
– add slaw
– add bbq sauce.