Monthly Archive for February, 2009

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 5

Breakfast: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Baked Apples, Whole Wheat Gem.

I figured there was no more appropriate way to end my week of Kellogg’s food than with a bowl brimming full of Corn Flakes. Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, are the ones who the invented the technique for crisping rice and corn into Breakfast cereal, and thereby creating a whole new industry.

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I pared and cored two apples and then, because I wasn’t paying careful attention to the directions, sliced them up as well. They should be baked whole. I put the slices in a baking dish and squeezed a little lemon over top. I used brown sugar in my syrup.

I baked the apples at 450 for about 30 minutes, let them cool, then scooped them out into a bowl. I drizzled them with cream and ate them up, although I think this dish could have been greatly improved with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Dinner: Corn Roast and Baked Sweet Potato.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have lunch today. I out and about in the middle of the day and well, it just didn’t happen. So I had an early dinner instead.

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The corn roast was quite good, I would say the best dinner entree I’ve had all week. I halved this recipe and used frozen corn; it was moist and tender when it came out of the oven, so I decided not to serve it with a sauce. It was similar to corn pudding, and I easily devoured the whole dish. However, I don’t think I’ll be serving it at my final dinner party: although i liked this dish the best, Rice a la Carolina was the most interesting, and the most appropriate to the time period.

The baked sweet potato was also an A+.

Corn Roast. It looked exactly the same several hours later.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 4

Rice a la Carolina

Breakfast: Potato Cakes, Banana, Whole Wheat Gem.

For this recipe, you are just supposed to form mashed potatoes into patties and fry them in butter. I used left over mashed sweet potatoes from the night before. They didn’t turn out very well, I think my potatoes were not firm enough to make a satisfactory cake. They came out like regular mashed potatoes, with some burned parts.

Lunch: Egg Sandwich

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This recipe is pretty straight forward; I added some fresh cracked pepper. I also used the whole egg–why let it go to waste? It was an enjoyable lunch, the lemon juice lended a nice, fresh flavor to the eggs. It’s been awhile since I’ve had and egg salad sandwich.

Dinner: Rice a la Carolina and Asparagus

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I wanted to attempt Rice a la Caroline because it is mentioned frequently in the book, The Road to Wellville, so I can only assume it was a San favorite. It’s a layered dish, and one of the layers is supposed to be a layer of Protose. But, considering my experiences with homemade Protose, I decided to do what a housewife a 100 years ago would do: I went to the store and picked up a manufactured meat substitute.

I don’t spend much time in the faux-meat department, so I shopped around a bit, looking for something that had ingredients and a flavour profile similar to Protose. Many modern vegetarian meats are made with similar ingredients: soy, wheat gluten, nuts. On a package of “chicken” tenders contained “ancient grains.” oooo. In the end, I settled on a baggie called Smart BBQ, with shredded vegetable protein in a BBQ sauce. The chile sauce I made the other day was similar to a BBQ, and I thought the shredded veggie protein would be easy to spread.

I cut the potatoes into thin slices, like scalloped potatoes, and pre-cooked them for 2 minutes on high in the microwave. I added the onions, butter, and I was out of sage so I used l’herbs du provence. I then spread the layer of Smart BBQ. The rice I cooked in the microwave, and mixed with about a tablespoon of tomato paste. I didn’t have hard boiled eggs, I ate the last of them for lunch, so instead I sprinkled the surface with breadcrumbs. I topped to whole thing off with a drizzle of heavy cream, and baked it at 475 for 15 minutes.

This really didn’t taste bad–I ate the whole thing. The top got very creamy, almost cheese like, and the potato-onion bottom layer was especially good. I also liked that it was an individual portion as opposed to a casserole. It seemed daintier, more refined, and it didn’t look like someone puked on my plate. This is a serious contender for the main course of my dinner party, but I also have high hopes for the Corn Roast I’m cooking Friday.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 3

(Image: vintage Rice Krispie boxes from the Michigan Historical Museum.)

Breakfast: Toasted Rice Flakes, Grapefruit.
In the modern parlance, Toasted Rice Flakes are in fact Rice Krispies. Oddly enough, sitting down to my Snap, Crackle, and Pop, it was the first time during this experiment that I felt like connected to history. With every crunchy bite of this continually popular modern cereal made me think of the fashionable patients of The San, and the subsequent breakfast cereal craze that swept the nation. Thanks, Kellogg. Your cereals are delicious.

Lunch: Green Lima Bean Toast, Banana.

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I wasn’t crazy about my Lima Bean Toast. It was like complicated adult baby food. I used frozen beans that I cooked in the microwave, then made a paste by whirling it in my food processor. I made the “white sauce,” which is just a bechamel, and mixed the whole mess together. I spread it on some dry toast and ate it. I was unimpressed–maybe this is some Victorian mode of eating that is better left in the past.
Dinner: Macaroni Au Gratin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Fresh Spinach and The Queen of Puddings.

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Well, it’s Wednesday, and Wednesday means Lost and Top Chef. So tonight turned into an impromptu debut dinner party with the arrival of my boyfriend and two friends. And it went well–very well.

Everything in the meal was devoured. DEVOURED. The Macaroni I made essentially to the recipe; I threw some red pepper flakes into the water that macaroni boiled in (a trick from half a century earlier). I also added a cup of cottage cheese to the sauce, because I worried it wouldn’t be cheesy enough for my guests. I sprinkled a bit of additional melted cheese on top, and sprinkled with some lightly seasoned bread crumbs. It turned out very, very well; and the entire casserole was stuffed into tummys.. But you really can’t go wrong with mac and cheese.

The mashed sweet potatoes I prepared as one does a regular potatoes, with about a quarter stick of butter and a healthy helping of cream. They were amazing. I’ve been thinking for awhile now that sweet potatoes need to be a bigger part of my life. The spinach was simple, fresh spinach from bag, with a dressing made of vinegar, oil, and brown mustard.
But then, my crowing achievement: The Queen of Puddings.

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This is a recipe I was testing to go on the Dinner menu next month, and it turned out wonderfully. I made it more like a bread pudding–instead of using bread crumbs, I cubed some slightly stale bread and soaked it in the milk (and a little cream for good measure). Next I mixed in the eggs, sugar, and vanilla (a little cinnamon would not hurt, either). I put it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.
In the meantime, I decided to make a fruit sauce from scratch. I sliced up some left over pineapple, and put it in a skillet with sugar, water, and a dab of water. I let it simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the pineapple was soft and the liquid had reduced.
The bread pudding came out of the over, and I poured the pineapple over top. Now for the crown!! I whipped three egg whites in my mixer until stiff peaks formed, then stirred in three tablespoons of super fine sugar. I used a spatula to spread the meringue on top of the bread pudding, and put it back into the oven at 325 degrees for 20-30. It came out IMPRESSIVE. I served it warm, contrary to the recipe’s suggestion.


This entire dish of the Queens of Puddings was eaten, and I was showered with compliments about my culinary abilities. My non-history-nerd friends sincerely enjoyed this meal. It gave me great hope for the upcoming dinner party in March. I was worried about Kellogg’s “health food” being unappealing to a larger audience; but I also imagined there must have been a reason it so sought after a century ago.

P.S.–due to a busy schedule this week, I’ve had to write these posts fairly late at night. It has occurred to me that they may be sheer nonsense; the ramblings of a woman in a heavy cream drenched delirium. Just bare with me for two more days.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 2

Eggs Baked in Cream, I love thee.

Breakfast: Egg Baked in Cream, Whole Wheat Gem, and an Orange.

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As I was preparing my baked eggs in cream, I suddenly remembered another reference to this recipe in the book Julie & Julia, the story of a woman who cooks every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was a favorite dish of the book’s author, and she had referred to it as the perfect hangover cure. I looked up Mrs. Child’s recipe for Oeufs en Cocotte, which was slightly more refined than the one I made. She recommends heating the cream first, then dropping the eggs in, and covering it with more cream and a little butter before putting them in the oven. It’s important to set the egg dish in water, “otherwise the intense heat of the over toughens the outside layers of egg before the inside has cooked…The eggs are done when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins.”

Child recommends cooking them 7-10 minutes at 375 degrees. I left my eggs in a little long and they got over cooked (the yolk was not as runny as I would have liked) but still tasted AWESOME. When it came out of the oven, I garnished it with more salt and some fresh cracked pepper. The cream and the egg white melded together, and become something that transcended a mere egg to taste like the most creamy egg-like thing in existence. I sopped up the creamy-egg-goo with my whole wheat gem, and slurped the rest off a spoon. After finishing the meal with a perfectly ripe orange, I decided that this might have been the best breakfast EVER.

Lunch: Scalloped Potatoes, String Beans, and Cottage Cheese.

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The scalloped potatoes were another huge success: the combination of the onions and the milk gave the potatoes an addictive, sweet flavor, and the butter tied everything together. I was literally licking the bottom of my bowl. I would definitely make this again. Hell, I’d take it to a potluck!

The beans I simply blanched and salted, and the cottage cheese came from a regular old Breakstone’s container.

Dinner: Walnut Roast with Chile Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Radishes.

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My second night of making meatless meat was slightly better than the first. I halved this recipe and I used a seasoned bread crumb. It is important to let it sit in the cream and milk for at least 10 minutes. It coagulates into a surprisingly thick goop. When it came out of the oven (40 minutes at 375 degrees) it poofs up on top and looks all brown and yummy. For the chili sauce, I used tomato paste and thinned with a little water in place of “condensed tomatoes.” It was actually good, just a bit strong. I could have thinned it out a little more. Combined with the Walnut Roast…well, it was okay. I ate about half, but it was kind of intense and weird. I don’t think we have a winner yet.

The were no cooking suggested in Ms. Cooper’s book for mashed potatoes, so I made them the classic way, with some butter and a shot of cream. Ditto with the radishes. I ate them in the French fashion, smeared with butter and sprinkled with salt. The fat cuts the tart bite of the radish, and it’s very tastey.

Walnut Roast. It would be nice to eat a dinner that doesn’t look like kitty catfood barf.

On day two, I have to say that these meals are consistently well rounded. Produce plus a starch plus a protein keep me full and give me energy. And my bowels are immaculate!

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 1: Lunch and Dinner

Asparagus Tips on Toast

Lunch: Asparagus Tips on Toast, Baked Potato, Yogurt

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The asparagus was a perfect little snack. I prepared it a little differently than the original recipe: I threw some butter in a skillet, put a slice of bread in there to toast it grilled-cheese style, and nestled the asparagus along side, with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper. Bread toasted, asparagus bright green and ready, I stacked them up and poured the butter left in the skillet over top. It was tasty: the buttery, crunchy sweetness of the bread with the slight bitter bite of the asparagus: yum. I’ll be serving this at the dinner party, but with a hollandaise to kick it up a notch.

I rounded out the meal with a baked potato and a vanilla yogurt for desert–nothing special, store bought. I did not make my yogurt from scratch. It was a well-portioned, delicious meal.

Dinner: Protose Steak and Baked Eggplant.

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My first mistake: for some reason, I decided I did not need to follow the given instructions for baked eggplant. Victorians are notorious for over-boiling their veggies, so I assumed I didn’t need to pre-cook the eggplant. I didn’t, and it was still pretty raw when I took it out the oven. I’m going to try this recipe again, and follow directions.

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Next, I took the Protose out of the fridge (for more on how I made it, check here). It was surprising firm after mellowing a day in the cold. I threw a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and began to brown some onions. After a minute or so, I sliced the protose and set that in the skillet to brown. After it was brown on both sides, I added a little flour and cream to make a sauce with the onions.

The result? It tasted like peanut butter. I didn’t spit it out, I ate it, but it was not…”good.” It will not be appearing on my Banquet menu in March.

My protose sizzles in a skillet with onions.

Kellogg originally developed meat-like products to lure plump turn-of-the-century millionaires to his diet and his Sanitarium. This is where I feel his cuisine, and all vegetarian cuisine begins to go wrong. I love vegetarian cuisine. Flavourful beans, grains and vegetables–delicious! However, I think it should stand alone and not try to reproduce the taste and mouth feel of meat. It’s always either disgusting or disappointing; and if you’re a vegetarian, why would you want to feel like you’re eating meat anyway?Overall, it was a pretty good day. The food was better than tolerable, and in a few cases lovely. However, I think I ate about a half a stick of butter, which is more butter than I’ve consumed in about the last 6 months. I feel greasy.

UPDATE 01/22/2012:  I made protose tonight for the second time in my life, and I have to say its pretty damn delicious. I used fresh ground peanut butter from whole foods, got a different brand of seitan, and was heavy handed with the seasoning.  I recommend this recipe if you’re a veg or vegan.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 1: Breakfast

Whole wheat gems.

For the next five days, I’m going to be immersing myself in the food of John Harvey Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium. All of the meals I’ve planned and the recipes I will be using come from The New Cookery be Lenna Francis Cooper (1914), who was at one time the head dietitian at Battle Creek.

Whole Wheat Gems, Hashed Brown Potatoes, Pineapple, and Tea.

Although I work from home, I don’t ordinarily bounce out of bed and fix myself a hearty breakfast. It ended up not taking that much time, and it felt like it could be a pleasant ritual. It also felt good to sit down to my first biologic meal. I can feel my intestines being cleansed already!

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To make whole wheat gems, replace the grahams flour in the recipe with 1 cup whole wheat flour. A gem tin is essentially a cast-iron mini muffin pan, which, when greasy and hot, makes the gems extra crispy. I didn’t have a gem pan, so I made these into drop biscuits by adding a 1/4 cup less milk. I baked them for 9 minutes in a 450 degree oven. They didn’t take much time to mix up, and came out cute as buttons. They tasted alright–the sweetness was pleasing, but you could really taste the whole-granieness. I think they will be better tomorrow toasted and smeared with jelly.

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The hashed browned potatoes were the most difficult thing I made this morning. I only used one potatoes, and cut it into cubes. I originally baked them in a pan lined in tin foil, but when I took them out after 10 minutes they were sticking, and the brown crispy parts were tearing off. So I plucked them off the pan, burning my finger badly in the process, and dropped them into a non-stick skillet. I added the milk and popped them back into the oven, stirring after an additional five minutes. All in all, they cooked about 18 minutes. The potatoes mostly absorbed the milk, and there was also this crispy milk skin. They were pretty tasty, but I don’t think you can go very wrong with potatoes, salt and butter.

I also cut up a fresh, sweet, heavenly pineapple and had a mug of herbal tea. Kellogg forbade caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco at the San; a few rules which we will ignore at the dinner party next month.

History Dish Mondays: Protose

So the big week is finally here: I’ve decided to spend the next five days immersing myself in the diet of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and John Harvey Kellogg. I’m not sure what to tell you to expect–either the delightful world of vegetarian cuisine, or another week of torture comparable to the Tenement Diet.

Protose is one of J. H. Kellog’s invented meat substitutes. I currently have it on my menu for the Dinner on the Road to Wellville party in March. I’m skeptical that it’s not horrible, so I want to give it a try in advance, so that i have time to come up with a suitable replacement, if necessary.

Protose was manufactured by the Kellogg/Worthington company until about 2000; since it was discontinued, there seems to be an online group of hard-core vegans trying to recreated it’s special taste and texture. While searching for a suitable recipe, I came across this fascinating recollection of one man’s experience with the cuisine of J.H, Kellogg:
“Protose. What does that conjure up for me?
You’d never guess.
The three most trusted people that Dr. J.H. Kellogg had working for him were three unmarried sisters: Gertrude, his chief administrator and executor of his will; Angie his chief dietitians; and Mable his chief nurse and the one person who accompanied Kellogg to Ontario to attend the Dion quintuplets.
By the mid-1950’s, the doctor long dead, the three unmarried sisters now running the Sanitarium in Miami Springs would spend the summers back up in Battle Creek at their farm in the country.
My grandfather was the brother to these three sisters and, dying young, my own father was raised by the sisters and Dr. Kellogg.
During the summers we would visit them three or four times for a weekend and invariably one of the meals was the most delicious “roast” made out of Protose. Once you’ve had it, especially the way they prepared it, you were hooked.”
I can’t confirm whether the story is true, but fascinating none the less.
After further research, I came up with this recipe:
Original Recipe from a post on Vegan Food
With variations suggested by and Ellen’s Kitchen
1/2 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
1 cup wheat gluten (seitan)
1 c vegetable stock
2 T cornstarch
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 tsp Italian herb blend
Pinch of salt
Steam in top of a double boiler for three hours, stirring occasionally. Let cool in the pan, turn out on platter and slice.
Seitan, if you were wondering, is a vegan food product invented by Buddhist monks in China. You take wheat dough and wash it under water until nothing remains but the gluten. It’s very high in protein, but it also looks like this:

I tasted a tiny bit of it out of the bag. It had a bizarre taste I wasn’t expecting: like burnt maple syrup. Very unappealing.
I buzzed the seitan in a food processor and mixed it up with all the other ingredients. I found out I didn’t have corn starch, so I ended using flour instead. I used McCormick’s Italian Herb Grinder for the seasoning. I took a tiny taste of the mixed ingredients and it tasted like…peanut butter with Italian seasoning.

I set it on a double boiler, and it looked done after about two hours. I flipped it out of the mold and it looked pretty unappealing. I’m preparing it in a dish for dinner today, so we’ll see how that goes. But I have a feeling I’m going to end up taking this one off the menu.

Martha Washington’s Great Cake

In honor of our first president’s birthday, I wanted to share the recipe for Martha Washington’s infamous big-ass cake.

From the Mount Vernon website, Mrs. Washington’s Original Recipe:

“Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work’d. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.

Notes on making Martha Washington’s Great Cake:

In making the great cake, Mount Vernon’s curatorial staff followed Mrs. Washington’s recipe almost exactly. Where the recipe called for 5 pounds of fruit, without specifying which ones, 2 pounds of raisins, 1 pound of currants, and 2 pounds of apples were used. The wine used was cream sherry. Since no pan large enough was available to hold all the batter, two 14 layers were made and stacked (note: the original was one single tall layer). The layers were baked in a 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Should be iced with a very stiff egg-white based icing, flavored with rosewater or orange-flower water.”

And in the spirit of the Month of Presidents, and the ongoing celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, Dj Bryan sent me this post on What about the plastic animals? about Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Almond Cake:

“The Lincoln Home National Historic Site has the recipe, which I assumed was authentic. It turned out well. The recipe called for six whipped egg whites to be folded into the batter. That made the cake fairly light, but still denser than an angel food cake…

Another recipe still has me scratching my head. And I quote: ‘Because I love a challenge, I took this recipe home and made Mary Todd Lincoln’s cake. Even with today’s modern technology, the process was slow going. In all, it took about four hours to cream the butter, whip the egg whites, chop the almonds and get it all mixed and baked. I used a mixer and a mini chopper…’

Four hours? Discount the baking time and there’s still three hours left. What task could have possibly taken three hours? I don’t mean to brag but it took me all of 15-20 minutes using an electric hand mixer, a mini food processor, and a large wooden spoon. Did she shell, peel and blanch the almonds? Were the almonds chopped one at a time? Did she forget to mention that she has no arms? I am baffled.”

Me too. Happy Birthday, Presidents!

A Shout-Out to Lenell

I wanted to make mention that Lenell’s, my favorite liquor store in New York, is closing today. She wants to reopen in a new location sometime soon, and I hope she does. She’s the best supplier for hard-to-find historic cocktail ingredients, including an unparalleled selection of bitters, Absinthe, Old Tom Gin, and peach brandy for making traditional Mint Juleps.

Read the full story here: Last Call: It’s closing time for Red Hook’s cocktail rock star—for now

Come back soon, Lenell.

Have You Ever Wanted to Learn Hearth Cooking?

Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum set in the 1830’s, is offering a program called Dinner in a Country Village:
“Enjoy a unique opportunity to prepare and eat a meal the way early New Englanders did. The Parsonage is the setting for this cold-weather Saturday-night program, where costumed interpreters oversee the preparations, but the guests do the roasting, baking, and mulling. Participants roast meat using a tin reflector oven, fire a brick bake oven, and mull spiced cider over the hearth before sitting down to enjoy the results, all by candlelight.”
If you’d like to learn how to prepare Pounded Cheese and Scots Collops, sign up on the OSV website. The class, plus dinner, costs $85 per person.

If you’re in New York, Dr. Alice Ross, who holds her PHD in culinary history, offers classes at her Long Island Home. She explores the entire gamut of hearth cookery from Ancient Babylon, to Medieval Europe, to basic hearth techniques for American cookery. She’ll also teach you how to butcher, Check here for the full class schedule, which cost $400 for one session.