1950’s Toasted Coconut Brownies (HFF #2)

My second entry for the Historical Food Fortnightly — cutting it close but sliding in right under the wire again.

The second prompt is “Culinary Vices “Some foods are really, really naughty. Globs of butter, lashings of sugar and syrup, decadent chocolate and wine. Bring out your naughty, indecorous side with foods associated with all the bad things, in the best ways.

Enlisting the help of my brother and my sister, we spent an hour or so perusing my cookbooks last weekend and came up with several recipes that would fulfill the prompt. But I couldn’t cook them all so I decided to go with:


Toasted Coconut Brownies

3/4 cup sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter or other shortening

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/3 cups (about) flaked coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons butter, melted

Measure sifted flour, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Melt shortening and chocolate over hot water. Add 1 cup sugar gradually to eggs, beating thoroughly. Add chocolate mixture and blend. Add flour and mix well; then add half of the coconut and the vanilla. Spread in greased 8x8x2-inch pan. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the melted butter. Add remaining coconut and mix well. Spread over batter in pan. Bake in moderate oven (350°F.) for 25 minutes, or until done. Cool in pan; then cut into squares of rectangles. Makes about 20 brownies.


The recipe comes from “The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook” which was published in 1959. I love this cookbook; it has some really great recipes in it as well as some wonderful illustrations.


I followed the recipe as closely as I could, making only one modification to the ingredients. Instead of 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, I substituted it with 6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa + 2 Tbsp olive oil, per the instructions on the container.

Ready to bake!


Another time adjustment with this one. I checked the brownies after the recommended 25 minutes and they weren’t done. I ended up leaving them for 18 mire minutes and they turned out perfect.


The brownies were super yummy – definitely a hit! Rich, chocolaty, and indulgent. Worthy of the prompt.The toasted coconut on the top made for a truly wonderful twist on the traditional taste. I will certainly be making it again in the future!

The Challenge: Culinary Vices
The Recipe: Toasted Coconut Brownies from “The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook”
The Date/Year and Region: 1959, American
How Did You Make It: Mix dry ingredients. Beat sugar into eggs. Mix together with dry & chocolate. Add coconut. Put into pan. Melt butter, stir in sugar and coconut. Sprinkle over the top and bake!
Time to Complete: 1/2 hour for mixing; 43 minutes for baking
Total Cost: Pretty much $0. All basic ingredients that I already had in the cupboard.
How Successful Was It?: Super!
How Accurate Is It?: Probably 90%. One ingredient modification but cocoa powder has been around since 1828 so it’s plausibly period-correct. I did use the microwave to melt the butter (and would have used it to melt the chocolate squares). I did use a modern oven but it’s not too different from a 50’s one.

1930’s Chicken en Casserole (HFF #1)

Something I’ve loved for a very long time is cooking.

Something I’ve loved only slightly less long is historical recipes.

When I started this blog I had it in my head that I would eventually write about food, the (sometimes crazy) recipes I try, and the old cookbooks that I collect. Last year I took some pictures for a couple of blog posts that I never wrote and kept on blogging about sewing. Well, last night I came across the Historical Food Fortnightly which kicked me into gear! I’m sliding in right under the deadline to complete the first challenge.

So without further ado, I present the latest addition to Trumpets & Trimmings: food!


The first prompt is “Meat and Potatoes” – “They’re a staple for the tables in the most rustic cottages as well as the fanciest banquet tables – and it’s also an idiom meaning a staple or the most basic parts of something. Make a historic “meat-and-potatoes” recipe – however you interpret it.”

I chose to interpret it quite literally – selecting a recipe that had meat and potatoes in it. Looking in my freezer at the end of the week, my only meat option was chicken so chicken it was!

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The recipe I chose comes from “Cookery for Today” which was published by Butterick Publishing Company in 1932.


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Chicken en Casserole

1 chicken

Butter, salad oil, or other fat

1 pint (2 cups) rich brown stock

12 button mushrooms

12 potato balls

1 carrot, sliced

6 small onions

salt, pepper, paprika

Wash the chicken and cut it up. Sauté the pieces in a little fat until well browned on all sides. Place in a greased casserole, add brown stock, cover and cook in a slow to moderate oven (350 F°.) for an hour.

When the chicken has been cooking for an hour, sauté the carrot slices, the potato balls, the onions and the mushrooms in a little fat, stirring them lightly around until they are well browned. Put these with the chicken in the casserole, season with salt, pepper and paprika, add more salt if needed, cover and cook for three-fourths of an hour, then remove the cover and allow the chicken to brown before serving.

The first derivation from the recipe was the fact that I didn’t have a whole chicken to cut up. I used frozen chicken breasts which I defrosted in the microwave – certainly not a 1932 technique. Second, I only had rather large onions so I ended up using three and cut them into large chunks. Plus I didn’t have a large frypan (it had to be thrown away recently) so I was stuck with a small sauté pan which meant that I had to cook things in rounds.

As for the potato balls? I had heard of them before but had no idea how to make them so I looked back a few pages to the potato section and based them off a recipe there called “Potato Drops.”

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Potato Drops

2 cups mashed potatoes (without any milk)

2 eggs

salt and pepper

Mix the potato and the beaten eggs. Drop the mixture from a spoon into the hot fat and fry until a golden brown, the drain on brown paper and serve with a garnish of parsley. If the spoon is dipped in boiling water after every using, each drop will retain the shape of the spoon.

I used six smallish potatoes, thinking that I could get at least 2 balls out of each one, two eggs, and salt and pepper. I formed them with an ice cream scoop, frying them in butter. The pan heated too quickly and they started to burn so I didn’t cook them in the oil as long as I could have so later on they started to lose their shape.

In the end, though, the dish came together quite nicely! The chicken was very flavorful and the vegetables tasted good. The potatoes were amazing – definitely my favorite part. I thought they were going to taste plain or dry but I think that cooking them in the broth in the pan gave them such great flavor.

A note about time – I cooked the chicken in the oven for about 40 minutes instead of an hour and the whole casserole was in there for more like 20 minutes instead of 45 at the end. The smaller pieces of chicken cooked faster than the recipe intended. I will say that I started to run out of time about halfway though (multiple batches in small pans) so the vegetables could have stood to be cooked longer. The carrots were still a bit crunchy which actually tasted pretty good.

The Challenge: Meat and Potatoes
The Recipe: Chicken en Casserole from “Cookery for Today”
The Date/Year and Region: 1932, American
How Did You Make It: Brown the chicken then continue cooking in the oven. Halfway through brown the vegetables and potato balls. Add to casserole dish and continue baking.
Time to Complete: 2 hours
Total Cost: Chicken ($5), vegetables and potatoes (~$1) so about $6 overall.
How Successful Was It?: Tasted great! I could have cooked the veggies more.
How Accurate Is It?: I’d say 60%. I made a few modifications to the ingredients because of what I had available on short notice and I cooked it using modern tools and conveniences (microwave, timer, etc).

It served five adults and got excellent reviews from all. So, first challenge completed right in the nick of time! As of right now my goal is to complete all of them so back to the kitchen I go!


Ginger Rogers Skirt (HSM #12)

I spent a lot of time contemplating this challenge, debating what I should make for the topic this month: redo.

For the first half of December it was looking like I might not be able to squeeze in another project between birthday and Christmas presents but my crazy schedule finally calmed down this last week and I was really able to dive into a project.

For this month I chose to redo one of the garments I made earlier in the year: a 1930’s skirt that I made for Challenge #2 (Blue). Part of my decision was based on the fact that I’d had plans to make the pattern again for a while but a large deciding factor was my desire to see how much I’d improved my sewing skills since February.

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I used McCall’s 6993, view B. The fabric came from my stash — I’d originally picked it up at a secondhand store so I’m unsure of the fiber content.

I used quite a few techniques that I’d practiced over the course of the year, including drafting (to make the waist fit better), lining, and fabric-covered buttons, paying special attention to the work I was doing.

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I hemmed it while watching Top Hat, which was the perfect movie to go along with the skirt and gave the it its name.

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This is how I wore it today; I ran outside when I got home from work so I could have my sister snap some pictures of me before the sun set completely. The shoes were new (and matched the blue stripes perfectly!) which wasn’t the best decision to wear for my shift. Eight hours of standing = sad feet.

Looking back at the skirt I made in February I am very happy with how my sewing has improved in 2015.

For one, the top-stitching along the top is much neater. Plus I paid careful attention to how the pattern on the fabric laid and tried to match the stripes better than I had the checkers.

Next, I lined the skirt and sewed the facing down with bias tape to make a neat seam. On the blue skirt I left the facing loose, overlocking the edges (which ran into some issues when I took out the pockets and 8 extra inches — there are some holes in it now). The loose one now seems fiddly and hard to wear.

Finally, I paid extra attention to how I hemmed the skirt this time (not pictured). Last time I turned it under twice and sewed a straight stitch. This time I used bias tape (like at the waist) which presented a much neater finish.

So, all in all, I would call my last project of 2015 a major success! I ended up with a skirt I am happy to wear (it’s really warm!) and am proud of. I can really see how much I improved my skills this year which is really the purpose of what I’m doing!

The Challenge: Redo (HSM #12)

Fabric: Tan and blue striped fabric, black for lining

Pattern: McCall’s 6993

Year: 1933

Notions: Blue bias tape, off-white thread, black thread, buttons

How historically accurate is it? More than the last one!

Hours to complete: ~8 hours.

First worn: Today (December 31 — it’s not yet 2016 here, no matter what the date of this post says!)

Total Cost: Basically $0 since everything was from my stash. Thinking back to when I bought the materials, it probably comes in between $7 and $10.