In the Little House books, many of the foods are simple and hearty, but they’re also a little unusual. You don’t see many people eating smoked venison or salt pork these days, and Johnny cake is even more rare. So I thought it would be fun to take some time to make a pioneer food that’s a little more familiar to modern palates: roasted sweet potatoes.
Like most Midwesterners, I’ve eaten sweet potatoes all my life, so it was fun for me to read about a food I recognized in the Little House books. In Little House on the Prairie, a friend brings some sweet potatoes to Christmas dinner, and the Ingalls family bakes them whole in the ashes of the fire. I wanted to make something a bit more involved that still remained true to the simple, natural way the Ingalls cooked, so I diced my potatoes and roasted them (skins still on) with a little salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh thyme.
The end result was a hearty dish perfect for a pioneer kitchen! 🙂
Today’s post is more of a technique than a recipe, but it’s one I’ve been wanting to try for months now! 🙂
This past weekend, I got to do something super fun and pioneer-y: I made smoked venison! When my brother got his first deer this year while hunting with my dad, I begged for a hindquarter steak to use on the blog, since nothing could be more perfect for a Little House on the Prairie menu than smoked venison. 🙂
Then I called up my friends David and Gina, who were kind enough to let me use their smoker. I’ve included details about our process below. Enjoy! 🙂
Welcome to our very first menu of 2017! I’m proud to announce that our new Book of the Month will be Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.
I love all the hearty frontier food featured in the books—smoked venison, corn cakes, snow candy, and so much more! One food that stuck out to me in the Little House books was “johnny cake.” I’d never heard of it before, but the Ingalls family eats it while traveling to their new homestead, so it sounded like perfect pioneer food.
Welcome to our Nutcracker bonus recipe! I actually stumbled across this punch recipe while looking up how to make sugar plums, and it just sounded too delicious to pass up. Plus, it’s so easy. You just stir the ingredients together and serve! Talk about a no-hassle punch recipe…and just in time for New Year’s! 🙂
Ok, you probably knew this was coming. We’re making a Nutcracker menu, so there’s gotta be sugar plums, right? Of course right! 🙂
Full Disclosure: When I first started planning this menu, I actually had no idea what a sugar plum was. I assumed it was dried plum that had been rehydrated in wine and rolled in sugar (which sounds delicious). But as it turns out, “sugar plum” is kind of a misnomer. It CAN involve plums, but it doesn’t have to. And they’re rarely the main ingredient.
Traditional sugar plums are hard candies that have been colored purple and surround a nut or spice. But there are also “Byzantine sugar plums,” which are made of a mix of chopped nuts, dried fruit, various spices, and sweetener (usually sugar or honey). This is the kind we’ll be making today.
Though I found lots of good recipes online, I decided to go with a slight variation on one by Bryt from Food in Literature since it had one of the shorter ingredient lists and her dried fruit combo sounded delicious (plums, apricots, and dates—oh my!).
So eat up, sugar plum fairies! We’ve got some dancing to do! 🙂
These cute little cheese wedges are my tribute to The Nutcracker’s main antagonist: the Mouse King! They’re super easy to throw together and simply delicious. They’re also really easy to customize based on what you’ve got in your fridge (I found lots of different versions on Pinterest and altered them to suit my needs). Whip some up to enjoy while watching The Nutcracker…or for your next Christmas party!
One of my favorite parts of The Nutcracker is when the Christmas tree grows to giant proportions. I wanted to include a tribute to the tree in our Nutcracker menu, and before long I stumbled across this clever pastry recipe from a website called Tavolartegust. I made a few changes to make it my own, and before long I had a delicious prosciutto and pesto Christmas pastry to snack on.
I think one of the best things about it is that is has that visual wow factor while still being really easy to make. You just put your filling between two layers of puff pastry, cut the pastry in a simple pattern (I’ve included visuals in the instructions below), and twist the sides into branches. Presto: instant Christmas meal! 🙂
This month we’re making a menu for a play: The Nutcracker! The story is so well-known and beloved that I knew it would be downright sinful to pass up the chance to make a menu for it. Plus, what better way to get in the mood for Christmas than with some Nutcracker food?
When I was brainstorming Christmasy, Nutcracker-themed recipes, roasted chestnuts sprang to mind almost immediately. I’d never made roasted chestnuts before planning this menu, so I was really excited to try them. There’s a little bit of a trick to making them easy to peel, but the warm, savory nuts inside are well worth the extra effort.
P.S. I used a method outlined on Tori Avey’s blog, which you can check out here.
Captain Ahab’s gold coin is such a famous bit of Moby Dick iconography that I wanted to pay tribute to it in our Moby Dick menu. But how?
I decided to save the coin as inspiration for dessert since it’s so special, and I whipped up some lemon butter cookies with vanilla frosting and gold sprinkles: gold coin cookies! I’ve been working on developing a lot of my own recipes for baked goods lately, so I decided to make a lemon version of my own butter cookies and combine it with my new frosting recipe. The results were delicately sweet with just the right balance of lemon and vanilla. The cookies themselves are tender and soft, and the sprinkles add just the right combo of shimmer and texture. A fitting dessert for such a classic book!
Back in Herman Melville’s day, ship’s biscuits (which later came to be known as hardtack) were common seaman’s food. As such, they’re mentioned regularly throughout Moby Dick, so I thought it would be fun to whip up an authentic ship’s biscuits recipe. I found one at The American Table based on an old Civil War era recipe.
Of course, designed to last forever and travel well, ship’s biscuits are VERY basic fare. They’re virtually flavorless in traditional recipes, so I added a little bit of extra seasoning to make them more palatable. You can also brush the tops with egg whites and sprinkle extra salt on top, but keep in mind that introducing eggs to the recipe would compromise the biscuits’ ability to be stored for months/years.