WELCOME TO APRIL PROJECT! this month, i will be recreating the american culinary triumphs of the 1970s: food will be molded, produce will come from cans, cream cheese and mayonnaise will be in abundance and NOTHING WILL BE VEGAN!
toss your keys in that teak bowl and come with me…
PARTY CHICKEN SALAD/FIRECRACKER PLUMS
chicken salad with a confusion of eggs running through it! fruit improved by sticking a layer of walnut-studded cream cheese in the middle! additional eggs turned into art!
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? the chicken salad is good; it’s pretty standard apart from the ‘why are there baby chickens in here?’ the plums… well, they look pretty, i just don’t understand the why of them. i’m trying to picture someone chowing down on them at a fancy brunch party, and i’m failing. the texture is odd: a juicy plum with a sticky dairy-barrier turning into a weird paste in the mouth and the dubious bonus of walnut fragments between the teeth. still, that egg-flower, right? i’m proud. mine looks better than their beached-and-gasping sea creature.
GINGER FRUIT FREEZE
is this lunch? is this dessert? it is unclear. the picture — captioned Salad luncheon tastes as cool as it looks. Ginger Fruit Freeze complements chilled fresh fruits and cheese-ham tidbits— makes it appear, proportionally, as though it is meant to be the main course; those two savory tidbits dwarfed by mounds of grapes, by a bounty of additional fruits, while that trim square of Ginger Fruit Freeze draws all eyes coquettishly. but i have never been to a luncheon, so i don’t know what’s traditional.
i am waiting for this to thaw enough for me to try it; wary of the flavor-onslaught it’s gonna bring: cream cheese, mayonnaise, whipping cream, almonds, dates, kumquats, candied ginger, crushed pineapple, maraschino cherries, salt, lemon, all in frozen bar form. right now, all i know is that it is very pink. and frozen solid.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s not bad. i’m surprised by how not bad it is. i mean, it’s not gonna replace a fudgie the whale cake anytime soon, but it’s got a lot of complex, conflicting, interesting and somewhat sinister flavors with this… murky aftertaste? none of that makes it sound good, but it is. mostly. it’s sweet and spicy OH AND THAT’S WHAT LITTLE GIRLS ARE MADE OF! i’m still processing this one. but it’s not gross and that’s more than i’d hoped for!
TOMATO SOUP WITH AVOCADO/SPRING SANDWICH PUFF
to me, that soup is being a little disingenuous. all it is is a can of condensed soup, some water, herbs&spices and some beef broth, with avocado slices floating on top (WE FOUND WITCHES, MAY WE BURN THEM?) for me, if a recipe is name-dropping an ingredient, i want it to be more than just floating on top of it. is this ‘tomato with duck soup?’
i guess so but also i guessn’t so. be less deceptive, book!
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? i’m not going to judge that soup because it is really just ‘making a can of soup,’ and we’re better than that. the sandwich, though, required actual effort; separating eggs, whipping egg whites unto stiff peaks, bringing the eggs together again with mayonnaise (natch), roasting asparagus, melting cheese – the road less taken to making an egg sandwich. but i gotta say, it’s worth it. light and fluffy and a little salty and an overall nice companion piece to a can of soup with avocados floating in it. also, it looks like BRAINS!
go ahead and plan a fancy luncheon party!
there was no picture of this dish in the book, so i wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
but i’m pretty sure i nailed it.
it is a wobbly molded dome of lime jello suspending apple chunks, grapefruit segments, and walnuts. BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s… okay. i mean, it’s weird, but it’s not yukky. the texture thing takes some getting used to. i know jello with stuff in it is not uncommon, but i have never had it, ever. and apples require some chewing, but jello does not, so my mouth was very WHAT IS HAPPENING IN HERE? PICK A LANE PLEASE! third hurdle is the fact that lime is my least-favorite jello flavor, and that’s a LOT of bottom-tier jello to eat. but for baby’s first jello mold, it doesn’t look bad! and if i ever had to swap out my body for a turtle’s, it would look like this
EASY CHICKEN CHOW MEIN
another recipe with no photo in the book, which makes sense. this one is pretty gloppy-looking.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? on the last episode of the revamped and inferior project runway, a contestant was cautioned by not-heidi-klum about knowing the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. this dish is neither. no one from china is claiming, or even recognizing, this dish, which features cream of mushroom soup and pineapple zazzing up canned poultry. i did not use canned chicken, but i did use a can of cream of mushroom soup, upon which i sliced my finger quite badly
if, like sean of the house, you like sweet and savory, crunchy and gummy all in the same dish, you will like this. if you have lost half of your body’s supply of blood in the making of the dish, you may be less favorably inclined towards it and choose to eat a bag of smart food mixed with a bag of cadbury mini eggs for dinner instead.
BANANA AMBROSIA RING
black-and-white is no way to do right by this cake. leave it to me:
and a panel of matryoshka monkeys to judge
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? well, let’s put it this way: this cake is no more; gobbled up in record time. it is delicious, although it was a little dry and
if when i make it again, i will add more bananas to the already-doubled amount i used. but yeah; more like this, please.
here is the whole recipe:
Arrange avocado halves or quarters on lettuce. Top with mixture of cubed canned jellied cranberry sauce and diced celery. Serve with French dressing.
i told several people about this before i made it. NONE of them seemed to think this would be delicious. the faces i saw, HORRIFIED, they were. and i get it. it’s a hard sell, that cranberry sauce. i wasn’t sold on it myself, but i already had most of the ingredients on hand from earlier dishes, so why not? BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? i don’t know why i doubted the cranberry sauce. i put cranberries on salad all the time, and it’s actually pleasing that this is texture-pals with the avocado. with a few tweaks, this could be a keeper-recipe. i mean, obviously better lettuce/other greens/different dressing and just… more stuff overall, but in the summer, when i can’t even deal with hot food and i find myself making a lot of salads? i might add some cranberry sauce to it. (because i will probably still have the leftover half-can from this in my fridge.) so, yeah, if you come to my dinner party, i might serve you salad with cranberry sauce in it. and you are a polite guest so you won’t gimmie no backsass.
BACON SPOONBREAD and EGGS GOLDENROD
there is no photo of the spoonbread, so i will have to supply it
first of all, “eggs goldenrod” seems to be 1963 slang for “gloppy egg paste”
before this cookbook, i had never even heard of sieving egg yolks, and now i have done it twice. i have also gone through more eggs during this project then i ever have in my life. the spoonbread called for 5, the eggs goldenrod for 6. because i was not hosting a fancy bruncheon, i halved the recipe, and it was plenty. BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? despite looking like sick-up and making my house smell like a fart party, it wasn’t bad. it’s not a texture i’m necessarily in love with, and if someone served it to me, i would probably react with skepticism, but i would eat it to be polite and save room for dessert. the spoonbread is also fine; the dense cornbready bottom and soggy-egg top is off-putting, but it tastes fine.
not a rousing success, but not anything i will have nightmares about, so we’ll put it in the ‘medium’ pile.
STRAWBERRY ICE-CREAM MERINGUES
this is the first time i have made meringue. i’d always assumed it was a really involved process, but ’tis simple! i did fail at the decorative element of the recipe; it said to make “shells,” but mine would not be shaped; the consistency was too sticky, like a less-dense marshmallow fluff. goop-sticky. so instead, i made blobs
giant blobs. this one looks like a fancyman’s face
and i managed to get the ice cream in ’em even if they weren’t shells.
and why, yes, i did cut the strawberries into little heart shapes. because i, too, am a fancyman.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? they were delicious. full stop. they were really sweet, very nearly ‘too’ sweet, even though i misjudged how much sugar i had on hand and was only able to contribute 3/4 c instead of the full cup the recipe demanded. but DAMN, were they good.
this isn’t meant to be a centerpiece dish, just an accent. a filthy, filthy accent: Tint peeled eggs in a variety of colors; serve as the good-to-eat trim on a luncheon platter.
HOW YOU LIKE MY GOOD-TO-EAT TRIM?
these are basically shucked easter eggs, so i was gonna save them for next week, but then i figured they were just as apt to celebrate game of thrones eve. like so.
BUT HOW DO THEY TASTE? they’re just hardboiled eggs. you do the math.
CONFETTI RELISH MOLD
looking for a way to use up all that tarragon vinegar cluttering up your cupboards?
soooooo this happened. this lemon jello/bouillon/sour cream/vegetable medley thing happened. and i DID get to use the tarragon vinegar left over after another project o’mine, AND one of my new molds, so a very fancy day. BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s remarkable how something with no mayonnaise in it can taste SO MUCH like mayonnaise. and it looks terrifying, but honestly, it’s not so bad. i’m not sure i would go as far as to call it a “star” of any luncheon, but i’ve already admitted to being unversed in life’s luncheoning ways. it’s not something i will make again, and it’s one of those “best in small doses” kind of treats, but if you have a craving for sour jello and vegetables, or if you are too lazy to go through all the work of dredging a green pepper through a party dip, try a slice of this!
i was supposed to make ’rounds’ out of my bread, but anything that can be made round can be made better as a cat:
and now i present… cat blintzes
BUT HOW DO THEY TASTE? the recipe i use to make blintzes (although technically crêpes suzette) takes hours and hours to make. this takes about 10 minutes. are these just as good? don’t be an asshole, of course they’re not. but if you want something quick and sweet that’s in the same general flavorzone as those, here you go.
CHICKEN CROQUETTES W/ GREEN PEAS IN CREAM SAUCE
okay, so mine might not be as aesthetically pleasing and uniformly conical as theirs in that confident madonna-breasted way, but i did a really good job dicing my chicken breast and didn’t cop out by using canned chicken, so points = me.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? pretty delicious. i used extra lemon and parsley so they were bright and herbaceous, and even though the crust is just nothing-fancy bread crumbs, it crisped up real nice and withstood the formidable sogging properties of the pea glop. i made way too much pea glop, though, so now i gotta figure out what to do with my extry pea glop. WHO HAS ADVICE ABOUT PEA GLOP?
TUNA RING and CORN IN TOMATO CUPS
who needs filters when shooting a beautiful woman? and who needs doodads and knickknacks when shooting a beautiful dish like TUNA RING? at least mine doesn’t have a big ol’ crease going through it. and no disgusting olives, either. just a good old fashioned elementary school picture day backdrop
get closer to tuna ring
there’s something… intestinal about tuna ring.
here is how corn looks beneath its jaunty tomato cap
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? they are both pretty salty, but the corn is actually quite nice. it’s meant to be eaten cold, but feel free to rock that boat and warm it gently. the tuna. the book didn’t really explain how to eat the tuna. if it’s meant to be eaten by the slice, it’s… a lot. too much. very fish. BUT, if you spread it on a slab of bread or toast or cracker, it has a nice flavor. if you have a pet bear, he will love TUNA RING. if you are human, enjoy in moderation. with ventilation.
BING CHERRY MOLD
LGM, i have nailed it
or not. this was not my finest hour. this mold has two layers: a jello dome and a whippier underneath part. it is meant to unmold seamlessly into centerpiece-worthy grandeur. instead, my jello part resolutely adhered to the mold while my flaccid mousse flopped out and i had to scoop out all the jello and reconstruct it on top like i was building a sugary sandcastle.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? eyes closed, it tastes good. i mean, it looks like a skin disease
and the base is a little more dense than i would have preferred, but it tastes like cherries and almonds and hospitals and it is a dessert with zero mayonnaise, so it’s a little healthier than some of the others in this book. not that that’s a priority, but if it’s a priority for you, that’s some news you can use.
FRUIT WITH MARSHMALLOW DRESSING
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? hate to go out on a sour note, but this one’s a flop. my mom’s recipe for marshmallow-based fruit dip is exceptional. this is sour and chunky and… odd. i’m not sure what the consistency is meant to be or how or even IF i messed it up, but it was a no-go. let me just say it has MUSTARD AND VINEGAR IN IT. IN A MARSHMALLOW DRESSING. THAT IS JUST WRONG.
WILLIAM TELL COFFEECAKE
can’t go wrong with an apple cake! BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s a decent cake. i personally like my cakes a little on the denser side, so if i were going to make this again, i would probably not sift the flour, as the recipe instructs. also, i’m a disgusting american – i like my breakfast cakes to be sweet and gooey and impolite, so i would have made the topping more chunky with nuts and brown sugar and oats and all sorts of toothsome delights, with apples actually IN the cake’s guts. still, a nice treat, quickly consumed.
***sorry for the lack of updates – i have been catsitting a very rambunctious cat, who did NOT like it when i sat at my computer, so it has been a week of much cat-whispering, little food writing.
you can see this book right there on the table next to him, so you know my intentions were good. he is back with his family now, and today i will catch up on a week’s worth of fooding. be ready.
HERBED SPINACH BAKE and BANANA BRITTLE DESSERT
i did these two dishes together because this book offers many different menu plans for various party needs. should i ever have the opportunity to hostess a fancy party for fancy ladies, i could use THIS suggested menu:
do you know what carrot-stick bundles are? they are “several carrot matchsticks” threaded “through a pitted ripe olive.” my home is a safe space for ladies, so no olives allowed. i considered just making butter and tea and calling it a day, but instead, i made
HERBED SPINACH BAKE
LADY FARE! FOR LADIES! FAIR LADIES!
this is a lady-portion
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s nice. it’s a simple-dimple rice casserole with spinach and cheese and while the only herb is rosemary, a single herb is all it takes to call something ‘herbed,’ so no false advertising here!
BANANA BRITTLE DESSERT
i good-faith looked for peanut brittle in my neighborhood, but i didn’t have any luck, and while i COULD HAVE gone hunting it across boroughs and hills and dales, as i have for other ingredients, i don’t personally love the stuff and the more i thought about it, the less i could imagine a polite gathering of ladies cronching down on peanut brittle and then using their begloved fingers to discreetly chip away that sticky brittle from their flawless lady-enamel. so i made a healthier, less dentally-damaging version using kashi peanut butter protein bars AND NO ONE WILL JUDGE ME FOR THE SUBSTITUTION.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? duhlicious. i don’t feel a bit bad for going rogue.
FRIED CORN-MEAL MUSH
‘cuz “polenta” sounds too uppity.
‘mush,’ on the other hand, is “nice for brunches!”
today’s staging was given an assist from louie, the aforementioned rambunctious cat, who decided to kick over a container of pepitas in a very artful manner.
my own slices weren’t as uniform as this professional 60s housewife, but she probably didn’t have to deal with a yowling cat batting pepitas and jangleballs underfoot. or maybe she did, but she also had diazepam.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it is very good! i have never put honey on
polenta EXCUSE ME I MEAN MUSH before, and now i have a new taste to like! come to my party! we have fine wines and mush!
HIGH-HAT CHEESE SOUFFLE
concerned that i’d been playing it safe by making too many basic dishes in a row, i decided i needed at least one more visually-impressive show-stopper before the firework-finale.
WHY YES THANK YOU I WOULD LOVE TO
NAILED IT! i am no stranger to HUMUNGOUS FAILURES, but it is still mortifying to reach for the stars and trip over a sheep. I BOUGHT A NEW POT FOR THIS AND EVERYTHING!
i imagine that the root cause of my souffailure lies in my inexperience with egg-white whippery and peak differentiation, despite richard’s helpful guide back in part 1
were my peaks firm without being stiff? was i so impatient to get to the spectacle that i neglected the fundamentals? because promises were made – promises of transformative cookery magic:
For a top hat (it puffs in the oven!) trace a circle through mixture 1 inch from edge and 1 inch deep.
i am a lousy egg milliner.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s for sure tasty; when you put eggs and cheese and butter and cayenne pepper together, it’s gonna be tasty. but an omelette with those components is going to taste just as good, and doesn’t involve all the mess and time and extra dishes to wash that separating eggs and ineffectually beating eggs and folding one mixture into another mixture requires. my advice? make an omelette. or cereal. cereal is also good.
another excellent menu idea, replicated here in its entirety
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s a hot dog stuffed with instant mashed potatoes and parmesan cheese. it tastes like that. fun fact: the recipe instructs the chef to stick 1/4 cup of instant mashed potatoes into the hot dog which i did not think could be done, but LO – the stretching properties of a hot dog are extraordinary.
when you don’t really have time for elaborate stage-setting because this keeps happening
to compensate, i will provide multiangle shots
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it is yummy; a combination of strawberry jello, crushed pineapples, bananas, real strawberries and… sour cream. i ran out of sour cream for the top-dollops; i forgot that those and the strawberry-toppers were mentioned at the end of the recipe, so this is what you get. again: cat-whispering was very demanding.
but it is tasty and also portable – i scooped a bunch of it in a tupperware and connor ate it while we watched AVENGERS: ENDGAME, so it is heroic and epic and getting rave reviews by association.
before the fireworks, a toast!
MOCK PINK CHAMPAGNE
and, in case you can’t make out the details on this super chic goblet i stumbled upon at the sal:
monkeys. holding wineglasses. swinging from chandeliers. it does not get better.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? it’s good: festive, supersweet, enough vitamin c that you won’t get scurvy anytime soon, and no one will take your car keys away (because they’re already in the party bowl, waiting to be selected by one of your sweaty-palmed neighbors)* this book assumes its reader is someone who knows how to make a lemon peel twist. i am not that person, so i sought out instruction, using this post. as you can see by my sad lemon peel parentheses, i remain incapable of making a fancy lemon twist. internet told me to: Twist the peel into a curly-q shape. The peel should naturally hold its shape.
mine… did not do that. but at least i made a drink by mixing several liquids together! and clean-up was a lot of fun!
and now – FIREWORKS!!!
TOMATO ASPIC/PERFECT POTATO SALAD
YOU SAY POTATO I SAY TOMATO
this recipe is the reason i chose this particular book for project. this beautiful blowsy beast of a dish – potato/egg salad stuffed proudly in the center of a gelatinous ring of tomato, spotted with raw vegetables, with only a modesty layer of lettuce protecting one from t’other. it is… a vision. i knew it was going to be my final dish in this 30-dish spectacular, and it was intended to be the oooh ahh fireworks capper to APRIL PROJECT.
it is not QUITE as i meant it. unlike oz, it is neither great nor terrible. OR, like my life, it didn’t turn out as i expected and it is somewhat disappointing, but there’s potential to improve if i do things differently next time.
BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? i will report back on this tomorrow. I KNOW – this is a major downer, but i want to enjoy and savor the moment, and that can’t happen right now. i will close out this review for real tomorrow. WAIT FOR IT KABOOM!
YOU STILL HERE?? for the moment of BUT HOW DOES IT TASTE? OKAY, SO: the potato salad is good – ordinarily i am a staunch supporter of egg-and-potato-salad separation, but after this project, i have a serious case of hardboiled egg-based stockholm syndrome, so whatever – eggs go everywhere, put ’em wherever you want, everything is hardboiled eggs forever, you win. but again, w/r/t the tomato ring, i don’t know how this is meant to be eaten. like the tuna ring, it is a LOT of flavor, so it is way too intense to eat as though it were a tomato-flavored bundt cake, but unlike the tuna ring, its texture is not a good one for slathering onto bread or crackers or any other carb-and-gluten-filled delivery mechanism. it is like WHAT IF YOUR HAIR GEL WAS ALSO A BLOODY MARY? BUT COULDN’T GET YOU DRUNK OR HOLD YOUR HAIR IN PLACE SO WHY IS IT EVEN A THING?
as far as its appearance, richard already scolded me in the comments thread that i shall now turn into a play:
RICHARD: Yay! And you already know what happened to the aspic ring, so I shall (uncharacteristically) belt up.
ME: i know! but it was the same ring i used to make the banana cake and that was fine! and the tuna ring, and that was fine! so i figured this, too, would be fine! and, honestly, only a little of it was destroyed, but i thought it looked kinda cool, like a floral wreath or something, so i made it all uniform/wonky and i like the effect. but yeah – a portion of it did stick and ruin the overall majesty.
RICHARD: ssssssssaaaaaaaaaraaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnn wraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap
ME: YEAH I KNOW BUT THE OTHER THINGS I MADE IN THIS DIDN’T FALL APART SO HOW COULD I HAVE GUESSED IT WOULD ALL GO SO WRONG?
RICHARD: Take no chances. Ever. Better to use protection and not suffer catastrophic ugly failure.
And when doing the book, well, needs must be perfect, no?
lesson learned. and – yes – my dream/goal is to expand this project into a full length realtrue book, so if you would like to shout encouragement at me or connect me to someone with a pocketful of book deals, I AM STANDING RIGHT HERE!
thank you for coming on this journey with me. come by for leftovers anytime.
*when i began this project, i thought this cookbook was from the 70s as so many of my BHG cookbooks are. the fact that this was published in 1963 has in no way changed my perception of this as a 70s cookbook. i am very stubborn.