Tag: retro

Grandmother Jane’s Old Southern Fruit Cake

This is the ninth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Crabby SnacksRice Pilaf, Frozen Fruit AppetizerSalad with Cashew NutsHam & Sour Cream CasseroleOld Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

Remember these?

Crabby Snack label

Hello crabby snacks. This is the Velveeta-canned crab concoction that derailed my quest to prepare all eleven of my grandmothers’ recipes I found in old church cookbooks. After mysterious casseroles and ice cream jello, Jake begged for mercy. We took an eight-month break from my grandmothers’ retro recipes and found her “Old Southern Fruit Cake” didn’t sound so bad.

I can singlehandedly dispute the rumor that there is actually only one fruit cake in the whole world that people keep re-gifting. Growing-up, my parents received a fruit cake every holiday season and I was the only person in my family who ate them. I don’t know where the cakes came from or if they were homemade, but I ate them all one slice at a time. Of course they were speckled with those fluorescent green and red candied cherries.

I examined my grandmother’s recipe and couldn’t do the candied cherry thing. Yup. I’d sooner dig into a bag of Lay’s Cappuccino chips or hack into a durian than purchase a bucket of green cherries for the sole reason that they just really freak me out. I followed the sound advice of a friend and substituted dried cherries instead. They lent a pleasing tart note and so I recommend you do the same.

Fruit Cake recipe watermarked

Grandmother Jane’s Old Southern Fruit Cake is totally not gross. I made half of a batch and live to tell the story. Like most fruit cakes, Jane’s is dense and thick with fruits and nuts, but it’s far from the store-bought bricks. We enjoyed slices fresh from the oven and relished the dried fruit which had become plump and gooey. I chose to add brandy to the batter and, after the cake baked for two hours, we were left with only a hint.

Fruit cake slice watermarked

If I had any qualms about this cake, it’s that I wished for more salt. Fortunately, this is a simple fix. Try adding a teaspoon of salt to the batter or swipe some butter on each slice and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

This fruit cake is more like an energy cake with all of its dried fruits and nuts. Who needs chalky energy bars when there are glorious cakes o’ fruit? Thank you for this gem, Grandmother Jane.

My Take On Grandmother Jane’s Fruit Cake
This recipe halves the original and produces two loaves of fruit cake. I substituted dried cherries for candied cherries. 

Fruit Cake Cover Photo

1/2 cup mashed banana
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup + splash of brandy or grape juice
1 1/2 tablespoon buttermilk (can substitute whole milk with a splash of lemon juice)
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 scant teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/4 lb dried cherries
(optional) 2 slices dried or candied pineapple, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb. dates cut into large pieces


  1. Pre-heat oven to 250℉.
  2. Grease pans and dust with flour so the cakes don’t stick.
  3. In a large bowl, mash the banana with the sugar until it forms a paste. Stir in the brandy, buttermilk and flour.
  4. Mix in the eggs until smooth.
  5. Add the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Stir in the fruits and nuts until combined.
  7. Pour batter into two loaf pans. Tap and shimmy the pans so that the batter is evenly distributed.
  8. Bake for one hour uncovered.
  9. Bake covered for another hour. Cool.

Only two grandmother recipes remain: Grandmother Jane’s braised Chicken Marengo and Crabmeat Casserole. I will not be preparing an entire Crabmeat Casserole which is a baked dish that contains crab, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise and cream. Fresh crab is not available here and frozen crab is expensive. Based upon the Crabby Snacks experiment, I’m afraid this dish would be a waste of resources if we prepared it with canned crab. Maybe I’ll try preparing a small ramekin of crabmeat casserole. 

Grandma Dorothy’s Hot Crabmeat Sandwiches: Oops I Made Crabby Snacks!

This is the eighth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Rice PilafSalad with Cashew NutsHam & Sour Cream CasseroleOld Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

Oops, I made crabby snacks.

The next recipe in this series comes from Grandma Dorothy, my mom’s mom. We spent a lot of time at their Cuyahoga Falls home where I played on their tree swing and spent hours in their attic looking at antique post cards. She gave me my first taste of coffee (which I promptly spit out) and read us books. She always kept a filled candy dish and taught me how to make homemade mashed potatoes.

This weekend I asked my Facebook fans which of my grandma’s recipes they’d like to see me make next and received the most feedback about crabmeat sandwiches.

First, A Mystery
Before I could start, I had to figure out what on earth is Velacta cheese?


I could not find information online for “Velacta Cheese” or even “Velacta.” However, I found an MLM company Velata that sells kitchen products, fondue sets, and processed cheese spreads. A reader pointed out that Velata is owned by Scentsy whose website says Velata was introduced in 2012. This made me wonder if Scentsy bought an old company’s line or if Velata is a new brand. Unfortunately, the company does not list a corporate phone number and has not returned my email yet.

Readers wondered if Dorothy actually meant Velveeta, with Velacta being a typo. I went with this assumption because Velveeta came into existence long before the 60’s and 70’s and I would have only been able to purchase Velata by mail ordering it from a direct sales representative.

Canned Crab
I live in a smaller Iowan town and we don’t have a large selection of seafood. I could not find frozen crab so I chose this canned variety.


Cans ranged from $2.99-$10, with jumbo lump being the most expensive. This can cost $5. The meat smelled unappealing and didn’t taste to great out of the can, either. If I had found frozen lump crab, I’m assuming it would have cost more than $10. Would I really have wanted to mix a higher quality product with Velveeta?

Crabby Snacks
I soon realized these sandwiches were actually a variation of the appetizer known as Crabby Snacks/Crabbies/Crab Bites. Jackie Weaver pushed this retro dish back into the spotlight when she mentioned Crabby Snacks in the film Silver Linings Playbook.

I have to confess I made some adaptations:

  • I cut the recipe in half so I didn’t waste a whole stick of butter.
  • I substituted butter for Oleo because I just can’t.
  • I substituted sliced bread with the crusts cut off for buns because I totally missed that part when I went grocery shopping.

Crabby Snack

Notes On Preparation 

  • Velveeta does funny things when you try to melt it with butter. It may separate into little globules so stir hard, and it will eventually form a paste.
  • I rinsed the crab before stirring it into the cheese because that smell.

Concluding Thoughts
These crabbies tasted better than we anticipated. This is not saying the canned crab meat tasted good, but that its flavor was mostly masked by the Velveeta mixture.

While I liked the idea of broiling each sandwich with a slice of fresh tomato, this turned out to be better in theory. The tomato slice blocked the cheese from getting golden brown and the underlying texture was unappealing.

Would I make this again? No. But it was fun to finally try this iconic retro appetizer. I have a hard time moving beyond the flavor of the canned crab lumps. If you like tuna fish, you might not feel too bothered and even Jake said he didn’t mind the crab’s flavor. I’d prefer surimi’s flavor (fake crab) to this canned product, though I typically don’t like its texture when it’s cooked. It reminds me of paste.

Have you ever eaten Crabby Snacks? How does your recipe (or your family member’s recipe) vary? What do you know about Velacta?

Grandmother Jane’s Rice Pilaf and Mustard-Chipotle Meatballs

We’re on the final stretch of Grandmother Jane’s retro church cookbook recipes.

Last week, I prepared one of her easiest recipes, rice pilaf, and paired it with some meatballs I prepared by the seat of my pants. I’m trying to brace myself for those crab casseroles, fruit cake (as in the infamous Christmas fruit cake bricks), and chicken marengo.

I’ve made meatballs so many times. I don’t measure ingredients and add whatever strikes my fancy, but I’ll do my best to share my tried and true meatball tips. These meatballs simmered in a gravy seasoned with chipotle peppers and grainy mustard which may sound like a strange flavor combination, but worked well together.

Rice Pilaf.jpg

We liked Jane’s rice pilaf, most especially the addition of the sauteed mushrooms. I took a number of liberties with her original recipe, though:

  • I used less than a 1/2 stick of butter.
  • I used basmati rice instead of Uncle Ben’s.
  • I added beef broth instead of “2 cans of Campbell’s beef bouillon.”
  • I cooked the pilaf in a saucepan instead of pouring it into a casserole dish and baking for an hour. I followed the method I typically use for rice and quinoa: Saute rice briefly in oil until it smells toasty, add twice as much water, stir, bring to a boil, cover, and steam on low.

Chipotle Meatballs.jpg

Meatloaf/Meat Ball Tips
Keep leaner ground meat, like turkey, moist by adding sautéed vegetables. I especially like finely chopped onion, celery and mushrooms. To reduce the need for breadcrumbs, add an egg yolk instead of a whole egg. You can also soak fresh breadcrumbs in a little bit of milk or cream to add moisture to lean meat. Always cook a little bit of the mixture before forming the meatballs to test the seasoning levels.

1 lb ground beef
Mushrooms, a handful, finely chopped
2/3 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Worcestershire, a few dashes
Dijon, a couple squirts
Soy sauce, to taste
1 egg
Bread crumbs

1/4 cup butter, olive oil, or combination
1/4 cup flour
Beef broth
Half and half or cream, a couple glugs
Minced garlic
Grainy mustard
Soy Sauce
Chipotle Peppers, 2-3
Sugar, a pinch
Fresh parsley, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375℉.
  2. Sweat the mushrooms and onion in a little oil until translucent. Add garlic and briefly cook until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the cooled vegetables, egg, a couple dashes of Worcestershire, a squirt of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, a splash of milk and enough bread crumbs to bind. Take a pinch of the meat and cook so you can test the mixture for proper seasoning.
  4. Form into balls and bake on a sheet pan until golden brown, flipping part-way.
  5. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. Begin by making a roux.
  6. Melt half a stick of butter in a large saucepan. Add about 1/4 cup flour, stirring constantly. Stop adding flour when the roux resembles the texture of wet sand. Since this a brown gravy, the roux can brown a little. Cook long enough to remove the raw flour flavor but do not burn.
  7. Add the stock and whisk. The gravy will thicken as it cooks. I gradually added about two cups. If it’s too thick, add more stock. If it’s too thin, you’ll have to reduce the sauce or made more roux and whisk it into the gravy.
  8. Flavor the gravy with mustard (I used grainy), garlic, soy sauce, chipotle peppers, salt, pepper, a little sugar, fresh parsley, and some half and half for creaminess. Get wild and crazy. You won’t go wrong if you keep tasting it as you go.
  9. Add the meatballs and juices from the baking pan and simmer.

Discovering My Grandmother Jane: Trying Her Salad With Cashew Nuts

This is the fifth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Ham & Sour Cream Casserole, Old Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

Salad greens say what?

After two weeks of weird, creamy, retro recipes, Jake begged me to take a break from preparing my grandmothers’ dishes so we could eat healthier food. I granted him mercy, well, mostly, by preparing this recipe for Grandmother Jane’s “salad with cashew nuts.”

Fresh salad greens, homemade dressing and cashew nuts. How bad could this be?

cashew salad collage.jpg

This salad dressing provided us with a break from mayo but called for a 1/3 cup of sugar. I had another just can’t moment and reduced it to 1/4 cup. I also added an extra squirt of mustard, and used half olive and half vegetable oil since I was running low on olive.

The salad dressing tasted completely palatable, but far too sweet even with the 1/4 cup of sugar. However, those who like dressings like poppy seed, french and raspberry vinaigrettes might not mind. The dressing is not something I’d make again, but I won’t have a problem eating it as long as I dress salad greens very lightly. It might also work as a component of a pasta salad if I add more vinegar of lemon juice.

Salad Dressing Clipped

And since I’m talking salads, I can’t help but go on a little rant about those salad dressing recipes that instruct you to dump everything into a jar and shake. If you slowly stream the oil into the vinegar/seasoning component of a dressing as you quickly whisk, you’ll never need to shake (unless you want to). Seriously. This dressing has remained like this for days all because I took a few minutes to emulsify.

I know this to be true, for I just made a shake-in-a-jar-dressing. It just seemed so easy, but in reality, was a separating, dripping mess that just wasn’t so cute when I actually served it to guests.

The next step of this retro cooking journey will lead us to fruit cake and rice pilaf. Next week, maybe next week, we’ll be ready to face those mayo-filled crab creations.

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