Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Eve: A Celebration of Food Through the Decades, 1910-2012.

As a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher I was selected to participate in the December 24x24,  held on New Year’s Eve!  My dinner party was a celebration of food through the decades -  100 years of food, served in 11 courses.  My guests were 16 eager teenagers, friends of my two children, who were willing to travel the century and learn a bit of food and cultural history along the way.  Guests were instructed to “pick a decade and dress for it.”  We had decades from the 20s through the present represented.
The meal did not follow a typical progression of courses, but rather, 11 courses aligned with the decades.  I recreated most of the recipes to reflect my focus on healthy, easy foods that are locally sourced as much as possible.  The party was a success and was great fun for everyone! Upon reflection, I’m not sure I would change a thing - other than to take more pictures! I was so involved in preparing & serving the courses that I missed photo opps on quite a few.

Travel 100 years with us...

The Singapore Sling Cocktail made its debut at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore sometime before 1915. Cherry juice was a distinguishing ingredient, and plays prominently in my non-alcoholic version.  This is a somewhat tart drink that uses black cherry juice and replaces the traditional lime juice with orange-pineapple for a slightly sweeter citrus note.  Served with a maraschino cherry and paper drink umbrella, the Singapore Sling was a fun way to start the meal!

1910 Singapore Sling (Non-Alcoholic)

  • 2 ounces black cherry juice (sweet cherry juice can be substituted for a sweeter drink)
  • 1 ounce pineapple-orange juice
  • sparkling water

Pour juices over ice and fill glass with sparkling water.  Top with a cherry & umbrella!  You can experiment with quantities of the juices to change the sweetness & flavor of the drink.

Fruit Cocktail & Finger Sandwiches were two popular foods during the 20s.  Fruit made an appearance in many dishes and finger sandwiches were frequently served in speakeasies, as quick finger food.  Two rules to follow for finger sandwich-making: cut off your crusts and always use “tight-knit” bread.  The dense bread resulted in a drier sandwich, which in turn prompted patrons to order more drinks -  the 1920s version of bar snacks!

1920 Updated Fresh Fruit Cocktail
  • mixed fruit (I used red & green seedless grapes, kiwi, strawberries, mango, and blackberries)
  • fresh lime juice
  • mint leaves, chopped
  • sugar

If available, select small clear glass serving bowls or glasses.  Fill a small bowl - larger than the diameter of your serving pieces - with water, and cover a small plate in sugar.  Dip the rim of each dish or glass in water and then dip in sugar, to create a sugared rim on each bowl or glass.  Set these in a cool place to harden while you clean fruit. (I made these in December in Minnesota, so my three-season porch (read: walk-in refrigerator on the back of my house) was a perfect place to keep the glasses while I worked in the kitchen. 
Clean fruit and distribute evenly in bowls or glasses.  Immediately before serving, squeeze a splash of fresh lime juice over fruit and sprinkle with chopped mint leaves.

1920 Finger Sandwiches
  • cocktail bread
  • tub of whipped cream cheese
  • 2 T milk
  • fresh herbs, chopped (I used parsley & thyme)
  • small can of sliced black olives, chopped
  • hummus
  • other spreads of your choice

I made three kinds of finger sandwiches: hummus, cream cheese with fresh herbs, and cream cheese with black olives.  Any filling can be used; be sure it has enough moisture in it to counter the “tightly-knit” bread. I used store available cocktail bread, to mimic the density required for “tightly-knit.”  For a cream cheese based spread, whipped cream cheese is the easiest to work with.  Add a tablespoon or so of milk and using an electric mixer, beat until smooth.  stir in herbs or olives and spread liberally on bread.

We could not pass through the 1930s without acknowledging the creation of the Tollhouse Cookie, made (accidentally) for the first time at the Tollhouse Inn in 1933.  My version is based on the Jell-O pudding recipe I first used as a young cook in my mom’s kitchen many years ago. This is the only chocolate chip cookie recipe I ever use - and the cookies are always met with rave reviews!  We served the cookies as the third course of our meal with milk!

1930 Busy Girl’s Secret Recipe Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 cup softened butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 small box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Soften (but don’t melt!) butter or margarine in the microwave (or allow it to soften at room temp).  Cream butter with both sugars.  Add pudding mix and vanilla.  Beat eggs in a bowl, then stir in to sugar/butter mixture.  Stir in baking soda.  Measure flour by dipping, and stir in 1/2 cups at a time, until all flour is added.  Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets.  Bake 8 to 9 minutes, until cookies are just starting to brown.  Kept in a tightly sealed container, these cookies will stay soft for several days - if they aren’t eaten first!

This was a time when cocktail party finger foods were enjoyed.  Shrimp cocktail was a popular delicacy and celery was stuffed with all sorts of fillings.  The same fillings that found their way into finger sandwiches in the 20s were often put in celery in the 40s.  We served stuffed celery with cream cheese and pineapple, traditional shrimp cocktail with seafood sauce, and this Reinvented Shrimp Cocktail with sweet and citrus flavors.

1940 Reinvented Shrimp Cocktail
  • 1/4 cup red pepper jelly
  • zest from one lime
  • juice from one lime
  • 1 heaping cup mango, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, diced
  • 24 ounces large cooked, peeled shrimp, cut in half

Use a whisk to blend pepper jelly, lime zest & juice.  In a sealable container or large zip bag, add mango, red pepper, red onion, cilantro, and shrimp.  Refrigerate for four to five hours.  Use slotted spoon to serve.

Story has it that stuffed mushrooms were known in the U.S. from the beginning of the 20th century (at least), when Italian immigrant mushroom workers started stuffing mushrooms as they knew to stuff bell peppers and tomatoes.  In the 1950s, stuffed mushrooms were extremely popular, especially when stuffed with delicacies such as crab meat.  Since this course followed shrimp cocktails, I opted for healthy spinach-stuffed mushrooms instead.  Also served in the 1950s was what we now know as Chex Mix or Cheerios Mix!

1950 Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
  • 2 to 3 dozen mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed and reserved
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • cooking spray

Line baking pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.  Chop mushroom stems.  Heat olive oil in saute pan. Add chopped mushroom stems and garlic; saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add chopped spinach and cook until spinach is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer spinach/mushroom mixture to a bowl. Add panko, cheese, salt & pepper and stir to mix.  Top each mushroom cap with a mound of spinach mixture.  Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees or keep cool until ready to bake.

Note: There may be more filling than your mushroom caps can accommodate. I refrigerated the extra and reheated it the next day as a topping for crackers and bread and it was almost as popular as the stuffed mushrooms themselves!

The Wedge Salad was a common menu item in the 60s, until diners became enamored with more “interesting” salads in the 1970s. We see a lot of reinvented wedge salads on menus today.  In 1963, a McCall’s cookbook reminded ladies that iceberg lettuce was a favorite for men who liked it cut in wedges and smothered in blue cheese salad dressing.  The Wedge Salad is not high on the list of healthy, low-fat salads; my approach is that if you’re going to eat it, make it good! My recipe:

1960 Reinvented Wedge Salad
Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 ounces blue cheese

Use a blender or food processor to mix all ingredients except blue cheese.  When smooth, stir in blue cheese. Refrigerate dressing until ready to use.

  • head of iceberg lettuce, outside leaves and core removed, cut into wedges
  • applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • blue cheese
  • pine nuts

Assemble salads with toppings according to guest tastes. Mine ranged from everything to lettuce and bacon only.  Drizzle (or douse!) with dressing. Add some freshly ground black pepper for a final touch.

In the 1970s crepes became mainstream American food with the popularity of The Magic Pan restaurants.  Americans enjoyed crepes filled with meats and vegetables, typically smothered in cheese or rich, creamy sauces.  Dessert crepes were a favorite, so for this 7th course of our meal, we enjoyed a little dessert.  Nothing about this recipe is homemade other than the assembly!

1970 Strawberry Nutella Crepes
  • 1 package store-bought crepes
  • 1 small jar Nutella
  • 1 box of strawberries, cleaned, halved, and sliced

Soften Nutella in microwave by heating for 15 to 20 seconds. The goal is to make it easily spreadable, so the crepes don’t tear when you spread it.  Spread a thin layer of Nutella on crepe.  Near one edge of crepe, arrange 10 to 12 strawberry slices in a line from one side of the crepe to the other.  Roll crepe over strawberries until entire crepe is rolled, sealing the edge with a little more Nutella, if needed.  Serve whole, or slice into smaller pieces. If end pieces need more strawberries, add them through the opening in the crepe!  Arrange crepes on a serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

By the 1980s, the Crock Pot had hit a market high and had changed the way many American cooks prepared meals.  The Rival Corporation reported receiving letters attributing saved marriages and saved meals to the Crock Pot.  The Crock Pot also was enough to inspire poetry from some home cooks!  Our 1980s course was a low-fat, sans creamed-soup, Crock Pot Coq au Vin.

1980 Crock Pot Coq au Vin
This is an incredibly easy recipe to prepare. You simply add all the ingredients to the crock pot and let it cook.
  • 10 to 12 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1 box sliced mushrooms
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 8 ounces chicken broth
  • 12 ounces red wine
  • 1 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 springs fresh thyme

Add chicken breasts to large crock pot. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 8 hours.

The grape tomato came to U.S. in the early 1990s, with seeds imported from Asia. Named because of their sweet flavor, grape tomatoes have a low water content that concentrates the sweetness.  For the 1990 course of our meal (served with the 1980 Coq au Vin), I mixed red and yellow grape tomatoes with olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh basil.

Exotic fruits continue to be more and more accessible in grocery stores and restaurants made good use of unusual fruit choices on menus as we moved into the 21st century. our 10th course consisted of some atypical fruit choices: starfruit, grapple, & persimmon.

And to round out our meal, the final course was filled with sweets from across the decades:  Butter Mints from the early part of the 20th century, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and jellied fruit slices from the 1920s, Hershey Miniatures from the 1930s, Junior Mints from the 1940s, gummi bears from the 1980s, and dark chocolate salted caramels to round it out!

This wraps up 11 courses and 100 years of food!  It was a great evening filled with good food, great company, lots of laughter, and a little bit of learning, too!  Thanks to Foodbuzz for supporting it and to my special guests for joining in the fun!


  1. Wow! I am duly impressed. Makes me wish I was 16 so I could have been there.

  2. I absolutely LOVED this idea Kris! I think this could be some kind of fundraiser for something at some point. I have never heard of it and it looks so fun! I loved the recipes and will be trying many of them!

  3. Great Idea! I love seeing all the themes :) Congrats on the 24x24