December 18, 2017

Civil War Era Cookie Recipe: Ginger Nuts

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

"He lives, then, on ginger-nuts, thought I; never eats a dinner, properly speaking; he must be a vegetarian then; but no he never eats even vegetables, he eats nothing but ginger-nuts. My mind then ran on in reveries concerning the probable effects upon the human constitution of living entirely on ginger-nuts." 

- Herman Melville, Bartleby, 1856

I was originally going to make Lydia Marie Child's Cider cake but ended up deciding against it. I thought these Ginger nuts would be a tasty accompaniment to the warm cider I had. Ginger-nuts are described in period sources as "little cakes," and seemed to be popular treat. Even William Alcott, the very health conscious father of  Louisa May Alcott, considered ginger nuts to be one of the "least objectionable" pastries. They could be cut out with cutters or formed into "nuts" or lumps and baked that way as is detailed in  The Complete Biscuit and Gingerbread Baker's Assistant (1854.) They are still popular in New Zealand but seem to have lost favor elsewhere.

The ginger and molasses taste went perfect with warm cider but would be as equally good dipped in tea. I only baked mine for 10 minutes because I knew we were going to eat them soon. The longer you bake them and the time they are in storage will determine the hardness. The full recipe would make about 200, 2 inch biscuits!  This was definitely a recipe designed to be baked once and to be used as needed for the rest of the year.

Surprisingly, even my family liked them and they are oddly addictive. I thought the hardness would deter people from eating them but they softened up in a day and were chewy although I know they will harden again in the next week or two. And even though we had a lengthy conversation about them not being dog biscuits, my sister's puppy still stole one from the table when I was not looking. This is definitely a recipe I will make again and it's a perfect reenactment snack. Being similarly hard would make this a good item to send to the soldiers during the war. 

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

Ginger Nuts


- 3 1/3 Cups Flour (And more, this recipe eats flour)
- 3/4 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Molasses
- 1 1/4 sticks of Butter, softened
- 1 Ounce Ground Ginger
- 1/4 of a Nutmeg, Grated
- Cinnamon to Taste


Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, softened butter, molasses, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add flour until it forms a thick paste (about 3 1/3 cups). On a heavily floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 of an inch and cut shapes. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on desired hardness. This recipe makes about 4 dozen 2 inch biscuits. 

Civil War Cookie Recipe Ginger Nuts

December 8, 2017

"A Man Could Propose to This Pie" WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie

Recipes for the earliest versions of pecan pie date back to the 1880s but the dish didn't reach its height of popularity until the 1940s when sugar rationing made this sugarless dish a good alternative to other pies. Older recipes tend to favor molasses while newer ones tend to favor corn syrup. The Karo corn syrup company helped popularize it in the 30s and 40s. 

Pecan pie has strong southern associations due to the cultivation of pecan trees there. It is currently the official dessert of the state of Texas, which is fitting, because the earliest recipes that are most similar to pecan pie today started popping up in the 1880s in Texas.   

I chose to make the Grandma's Old Fashioned Molasses version because, ahem, I'm giving it to a man--I mean--because molasses is the best nutritional substitute for sugar according to Sweets Without Sugar (1945), a book dedicated to wartime sweetener substitutes. (We'll see.)  I also used margarine as my shortening to keep in theme with WWII era substitutions. 

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie WW2

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie WW2


- 2 Eggs, Beaten
- 1/2 Cup light Corn Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/16 teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Shortening, melted
- 1 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Cup Chopped Pecans
-  1, 9 inch unbaked Pie Shell

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line your pie pan with crust, a little on the thicker side. Mix eggs, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla and salt. Add melted, but cool-to-the-touch, shortening. (Or else you'll have omelette in your pie.) Mix in your nuts and pour the mixture into your pie crust. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then serve with whipped cream and cherries.

WWII Era Recipe: Pecan Pie  World War Two

November 13, 2017

WWI Era Recipe: Pumpkin Candy and a Riddle

World War I WW1 Recipe Pumpkin Candy

I saw this recipe and just had to see how our predecessors used such a trendy, fall flavor combination! I think this is the first recipe I've made that used corn syrup, it could have just as easily been substituted with more sugar or honey.

For whatever reason I imagined this as a hard candy but it is a softball stage candy that could probably be pulled into a taffy.While many period recipes do not please the palates of two time periods, this one is pretty delicious and I can't wait to make it again. The flavor is delicious but not too strong and for a candy it's not super sweet. I didn't add the nuts but they would have been a decent addition. 

If you are making this with canned pumpkin (which is arguable partially squash anyway) be sure to get canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. I highly recommend lining your pan with parchment paper and letting the candy sit for an hour or two before cutting. This recipe made about a 12" x 12" square pan of candy. Wrap the pieces in wax paper and enjoy!

World War I WW1 Recipe Pumpkin Candy

Found this puzzle while reading a period magazine and thought it would be something fun to try while my candy was cooking. I did not make much progress in it but you might have a better time of it:

Spinning Wheel, 1914

October 25, 2017

WWI Era Turkish Delight Recipe

"I am now on a hospital ship bound for somewhere, and I don’t know where...I have been wounded in the foot, but not seriously. You know what things are on an hospital ship, plenty of everything. I shall have a good yarn to tell you when I come home, and I don’t think it will be long. It isn’t half hot our here, and it doesn’t half make you stare to see a seven foot Turk in front of you. It makes you think you are going to have Turkish delight for supper..." -Private Charlie Cox in a letter to his parents Sept. 28, 1915

WWI Recipes Candy Turkish Delight

I'm very happy I had a chance to make this. I was hoping I could make something delicious to send on over to Newville but it's been quite the week. I found this recipe while researching Trench Cake and ending up finding a recipe for "Trench Fudge" (apparently there's no information anywhere about what trench fudge is) above this deliciousness.

Turkish Delight, also known as, Lokum, Lumps of Delight or Turkish Paste was created in the late 1700s in Turkey. According to the Arabic name, rāḥat al-ḥulqūm, they were likely developed as a throat soother. The candy became very popular in the West during the 1860s. Popular flavors included rose water, lemon, orange, honey, and molasses. The oldest recipes rely on the sugar and fruit Pectin to gel. The addition of gelatin is very typical of the time period. Gelatin was made for centuries as a result of boiling bones but gelatin desserts became very popular at the end of the 19th century. It was at this time Jell-o appeared.

No post on Turkish Delight would be complete without mention of C.S. Lewis and Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. There's a really good article on the popularity of Turkish Delight during the time period and how the difficulty of the recipe and the amount of sugar involved made Turkish Delight seem like a ridiculous luxury during the food rationing of WWII.

The Recipe:   

WWI Recipe Candy Turkish Delight
World War 1 I Recipe Turkish Delight Candy


The result ended up being better than expected. I was afraid it wouldn't gel but in the morning it was perfectly solid. The gelatin flavor is a little strong. Other contemporary recipes call for the addition of lemon or orange oil and I think that would be a good addition. This recipe can also be made with vegetarian gelatin.
I used a greased 9 x 6 " loaf pan. If I was to make this again I would probably use whole nuts so that they don't all float to the top. The times I used were very approximate as I was cooking in between calling a tow truck andwaiting for it. :) I might have done around 7 minutes for each boil. I was worried it might not gel but I had no issues. I covered it with a cloth when I left it to set over night in in the refrigerator to try to keep some of the moisture off.  Once cut, I made sure they were well coated in powdered sugar which dulled the candy to a peachy-orange color. 

I've read conflicting advice from "keep in an airtight container" to "keep in a paper bag," and read storage estimates from 3 days to 3 months. I put 1/2 in an airtight container, the other half I wrapped individually in little bits of parchment paper.  If either method keeps them good by next week, I'll be sure to send them on to the event and leave an update here on which method is better.

Hope you enjoy!  

October 9, 2017

On Dying

I am sorry that this is so long. This is something I don't like to talk about but I've had enough inquiries that I thought it best to address it as I hate it when a blogger you follow ghosts leaving you to wonder how the story ended. People have been asking where I have been and if I've stopped blogging etc. The truth is, the past few years I've been really sick and I don't like to talk about it.

Getting sick started a few years ago and it was a slow process. My joints would hurt and I'd be tired. My hips always hurt. I was just getting old, it was nothing to worry about. College took up a lot of my time but I still was dancing, painting, writing, reading, reenacting and doing all the things I loved.

But my junior year things started to get weird. I was really tired despite sleep. I was stressed out but not excessively so. I was always a fairly good student but I was having trouble remembering things.

I failed a test and my professor asked me to come see him. He didn't understand how I didn't get any these questions right when I was discussing the topics in depth in class a day prior. He even added that my grade was statistically improbable. I would have gotten a better grade if I didn't even read the questions and just guessed.  I had a hard time explaining it either. My professors decided it was testing anxiety although I never had that before. I was happy to have some kind of explanation. I was functional by my recall of specifics was terrible.

But my memory got worse and worse. I once got stranded at school because I forgot my purse, phone and money and couldn't remember any phone numbers to call to get someone to pick me up. I was afraid to touch my hair because it would fall out in clumps. I went to the doctor. He didn't take me seriously.  He said I was just stressed and should start keeping lists. (If any of you know me, you know I'm an insane list maker. So this suggestion was ludicrous.)

Student teaching was a nightmare. My coop teacher had just had twins and needed some time off so I was more or less on my own. Standing that long started to become an issue. I had to sit or lean. I was excessively tired. It was stressful enough without the memory issues. I would walk from the back of the room to the front to write something on the board and forget what I was going to write on the way up. My spelling was terrible and I dreaded those occasions when I would stop half way through a word on the board because it didn't look right and I would have to turn to that slightly smug AP student to nod that my spelling was correct but I was so thankful they were there. By this point I knew there was something seriously wrong but I didn't have the time, energy or money to try and address it and the doctor before said nothing was wrong.

It's a horrible feeling to be sick and not know what's wrong. Over the next few years, everything got worse. I was too tired to spend much time at reenactments. I went from dancing every night to a couple times a week here and there. My hip joints hurt as much as ever. Reading was a nightmare. I reread every paragraph on a loop over and over again. I reread every paragraph on a loop over and over again. I reread every paragraph on a loop over and over again. I had so little energy, I did what I had to do and went home to sleep. My relationships with people were virtually nonexistent. Even my boyfriend stung me with "All you ever want do when I come over is stay in bed!" I learned a lot about photography at this point. Painting took too much effort but I could learn about photography in bed. 

I didn't just lack energy. I physically spent 18 hours a day lying on the floor, hardly able to drag myself to the kitchen to get something to eat. The bed hurt. Everything hurt. It was hard for me to do easy tasks like opening doors. I couldn't stand very long. I went to work and spent most of my days pretending nothing was wrong. Work was hard because my energy was so limited, I was always on the verge of tears. My friend's mom said I should go get checked for Lyme and I kept putting it off. I finally dragged myself to the doctor and was diagnosed with Post Treatment Lyme Syndrome, and later Hypothyroidism and Cushing's Disease likely brought on by the Lyme.

I'm not going to go through everything it took to get diagnosed and sorted out but it was so many doctors and doctors appointments. And TE$TING. Lots of TE$$$TING. It was hard to work and paying for all of my medical bills was killing me. I needed another job but it was virtually impossible. I thought knowing what the problem was would fix everything but it didn't. I stopped going to my doctors appointments because I didn't have the energy to make the appointments, find the doctors, fight with insurance. The medicine that was supposed to fix everything didn't do anything. I was spending so much money and not feeling any better.  It was around this time that my family found out what was going on. A childhood friend died from complications due to Lyme, she was getting hip surgery. My family was pretty adamant that I continue with everything although I had long lost interest in trying.         

I had to take pills. Lots of them. But this pill has to be taken without food, another with food, one couldn't be taken with calcium, one was calcium, some made me sick but I had to take them anyway, some didn't work and we had to try new things, most of them I couldn't pronounce. Almost all had some sort of negative side affects but that was only if I remembered to take them. Which I didn't. I still hurt and I still had memory issues. I was very depressed, still had no energy, could barely leave the house. It even became hard for me to carry the weight of my camera.

To go from someone who was used to being able to remember lectures word for word and the page numbers where I read a particularly interesting passage a few years prior who would make art, write, go hiking, camping, sailing. I was devastated. Who are you even after you can't do anything that makes up your very being? Looking at the shell of my life and watching everyone living theirs was SO hard. I watched friends dance and going out at night and I knew I couldn't do those things I took for granted. I let so many people down. I couldn't stay out long with friends. I couldn't volunteer like I used to. I'd forget to show up. And even if I went, what good was I? I wasn't much good physically and I wasn't much good in the way of conversation. I was good for nothing. It was so dark and I wanted to be dead. I felt like a burden on everyone. My only real connection to the outside world was through social media.

 I spent a lot of time dying and about a year dead.

I'm feeling so much better now. Whatever odd cocktail of pills I'm on seems to be working good enough and I'm getting better at knowing and working within my limitations. I still have my bad days and weeks, but I'm out of the house. Sometimes, I'm overly excited that I went out (please bear with me, it's like everything is new.) Even things I did for years are new. I'm relearning so much. The pain is manageable. I'm so thankful to everyone who has stuck through this with me! I hope to be blogging again soon!

September 17, 2017

WWII Era Tomato Soup Cake (You Read that Right) Recipe

Soup to Nuts Cake WWII Tomato Soup Cake

This was one of those recipes I came across that sounded so weird I just had to try it for myself. The recipe is called "Soup to Nuts Cake" but has gone by many names including "Tomato Soup Cake" and "Mystery Cake." The recipe first made an appearance during the depression but made a resurgence during WWII as a way to make cake without eggs and only using a little butter.

Similar recipes were advertised as holiday fare likely because they used a lot of sugar. During WWII sugar could be substituted with maple flavored syrup, corn syrup, molasses, honey or sorghum and all of these substitutions would be complimentary to the flavor of this cake.  

Tomato Soup Cake


-1 Cup Sugar
-2 Tbs Butter
-1 can Tomato Soup
-1 tsp. Baking Soda (dissolved in the soup)
-1 tsp. Baking Powder

-1 Cup Raisins
-1 Cup Walnuts, chopped
-1 tsp Cloves, ground
-1-2 tsp Cinnamon
-1/4 tsp Nutmeg
-1 3/4 Cups Flour


-3 oz of Cream Cheese
-1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together and add soup. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour batter into a greased cake pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool completely. For icing, mix powdered sugar and cream cheese together.  

I ended up only making half of the icing and drizzling it rather than icing the whole cake-there's a war on, after all. I realized after I made my batter that the bundt style might not have been the best for such a chunky batter but it ended up keeping its shape quite nicely.

Soup to Nuts Cake WWII Tomato Soup Cake

I was hoping to bring this little mystery cake to the Eisenhower Farm event for our home front display and as a little adventurous eating for our company but a tragic, completely unforeseen event befell us. I forgot the cake in the freezer and didn't realize until we were halfway there! So this little hunk of mystery is going to have to hang out in the freezer until next event and I will publish a part 2 to this post "Fear Factor: WWII ration cooking edition."  

I thought I would include some of my favorite pictures from the event for those of you who couldn't make it out. Enjoy!

June 23, 2017

Easy WW2 1940s Dress Pattern Review: Butterick B5209

WWII Dress Sewing Pattern B5209

I made this dress what feels like forever ago and am only now getting to review the pattern. A few months ago I had the chance to see some old friends that would be coming out my way for the WWII Weekend at Valley Forge (formerly Graeme Park.) I thought it would be fun to hang out with them for more than a day trip since I hadn't seen them in awhile and one of my local friends wanted to meet them so about 2 weeks before, we were convinced to stay for the dance. Now, I know what you're thinking: 2 weeks is not enough time for two girls to prepare for a dance. It wasn't.

We originally thought that this dress would be simple enough for us both to make one in time but it took a long time to find any fabric I remotely liked. Then the pattern wouldn't work for both of us and we didn't have time to do mock ups. My friend amazingly fit into the WWII Dress that I made a few years ago and looked fantastic so I only had to make the one dress. I've been working a lot and it was tough to find sewing time while everyone in the house was awake so I sewed all the way up to the minute I left, as per usual. :D

This patterns on the 40s to 50s cusp. It's easy in terms of historical clothing but 1940s stuff is always deceptively a bit difficult due to high end finishing techniques, small details or odd seams. The pattern itself is a little late for WWII but not excessively so. Similar patterns were popular in the 30s as well as after the war.

I was originally hoping to make the dress out of a light linen from my stash but I was a little short and after a voracious search I settled on this cotton fabric. I was hoping for something with a Hawaiian feel as I wanted to wear it as a sundress this summer.

If I was to make it again, I would probably insist on a lightweight linen or satin and I would definitely take the time to make sure it was properly fitted. It ended up being a little big but there wasn't much I could do about it during the time crunch. We never actually got a picture of me wearing the finished dress but I hope this picture of us having fun in the car on the way will suffice.

The dress is not too difficult and can be sewn in a few days. Just be sure that you are following the correct instructions if you want to make the dress with sleeves. So many people I know have accidentally followed the sleeveless version. I've made this dress a second time in a slightly smaller size and it fits much better.

We had a great night and have both been having fun learning to dance to Swing since.  I later made this headband out of the fabric scraps. Haven't worn them together yet but I think it will be cute.

Forgive the frizzy hair the humidity here is crazy!
WWII Dress Sewing Pattern B5209

Hope everyone is having an awesome summer and I hope to be posting more soon!

April 8, 2017

Civil War Era Game: The Little Fortune Teller

I came across this fun little amusement in search for some Civil War Era games. This game is very familiar to those of us that played with those folded paper fortune tellers  in the 80s and 90s. It was published in Fireside Games (1859) among other publications.

The premise is very simple. You close your eyes, point to a number on the page and that number will correspond to your fortune. I'm going to have "A speedy proposal of marriage," and "See an absent lover." Uh oh! 

I thought I'd make a condensed version in case anyone wants to print it for use at reenactments. Right click and "Open image in new tab" to save the original size. The game will print properly on an 8.5" x 11"  piece of paper. 


March 3, 2017

Civil War Era Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak was a popular, economic meal using up leftovers. The name comes from the sound the cabbage makes while cooking.  It was often served with a side of sausages or other meat or mashed potatoes. It was sometimes referenced as an Irish dish although there are recipes for it, and references to it, in British, Scottish and American books. It's origin is British although the dish is similar to Irish Colcannon.

There were many recipes for it in the early 1800s but by the 1860s it was ubiquitous enough of a dish that publications refer to it as if it was commonplace. Godey's Lady's Book published a recipe in 1862 for Buttered Cabbage "Boil the cabage with a quantity of onions, then chop them together, season with pepper and salt, and fry them in butter. It is rather a homely, but savory dish, and frequently used either with fried sausages laid over it or as an accompaniment to roast beef, and forms part of bubble and squeak."

James M. Sanderson listed a recipe for Bubble and Squeak in his Camp Fires and Camp Cooking, or; Culinary Hints for the Soldier, a book intended for Union soldiers

This is an old and favorite mode of getting rid of bits of corned beef among good housewives at home and can be advantageously introduced into camp. Any pieces of cold corned or salt beef that may be on hand should be cut into slices and sprinkled with pepper; then put them in a pan, with a little grease or fat, and fry them slightly. Boil some cabbage, and squeeze it quite dry; then cut it up very fine, and serve a piece of beef with a spoonful of cabbage, first seasoning it with pepper, salt, and vinegar.


- 1/2 head of Cabbage (endive, or savoy recommended)
- Leftover Beef, sliced (steak or salt beef)
- 1 Onion
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- Salt and Pepper


Wash and chop the cabbage, onion and carrot. In a medium pot, boil the vegetable mixture until soft. Drain. Put a pat of butter in a skillet on medium heat and fry the cabbage, onion, carrot and meat until the edges are slightly browned. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with mashed potatoes and sausages.

Civil War Recipes Bubble and Squeak 1860s

Civil War Recipes Bubble and Squeak 1860s

Civil War Recipes Bubble and Squeak 1860s

Civil War Recipes Bubble and Squeak 1860s
Civil War Recipes Bubble and Squeak 1860s

February 5, 2017

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s Conference!

Did you know there is an amazing Civil War Civilian Conference coming up? What's that? A change to hang out with some awesome people and discuss important topics like interpretation and learn new historical skills! This year there will be workshops on aprons and pineapple purses, but also vendors and lectures. It sounds like it's going to be an amazing time! Below is a guest post from the conference director Kristen Mrozek: 

Hello! My name is Kristen Mrozek, and I am the director of The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s, a non-profit conference here in Michigan. It will be held March 24-26. I'm a follower of Stephanie Ann's historical adventures (and the food...goodness the food!), and she has been so kind as to let me do a guest post. In keeping with the "Secret Life" theme, I give to you: "Secret Life of a Conference Director"

1. Glenna Jo Christen, my director-in-crime, and I are planning an educational display, complete with original artifacts of the 19th century. Here she holds up the famous sheer dress that inspired the many reproductions today!

2. A piece of hair jewelry from my personal collection. We'll have jewelry, perforated paper, and other pieces to study. 

3. Our smaller classes and workshops (Aprons and Pineapple Purses!) will be held in this room at Monroe County Community College. The vendor area will be right around the corner: The Dressmaker, Sullivan Press, Miller's Millinery, Lucy's Hairwork, The Victorian Needle, James Country Mercantile, and Ensembles of the Past...oh my!

4. Meg, Jillian, Jennifer, and I enjoying another educational opportunity-this one in New York. I learned many things about conference organization at Genesee Country Village; from table settings to classes, the staff and volunteers there are essential to historical preservation!

5. I find myself drawn to The Sawyer Homestead. It's in Italianate architecture, and nearly burned to the ground a few years ago when it was struck by lightning. Through careful fundraising and dedication, the house is once more restored, and will host our Friday night party!

6. I've met with many of the organizations in Monroe to spread the word about the conference. As of now, over $500 has been donated in scholarships from various people and organizations. Would you believe I was once afraid of public speaking?

7. I found a Confederate apron at the Monroe Historical Museum-I highly recommend a visit. Downtown Monroe is filled with little stops of learning along the way.

8. We really can't go someplace without having a bit of fun. Here we're at The Clements Library in Ann Arbor, the spot for our free seminar about the collection. The University of Michigan is my alma mater, so I sincerely love any trip to the town.

9. I made this perforated paper box with silk, cutting the design with a precision knife. I'll be publishing a book with designs/patterns the day of the conference!

10. This picture is a bit older, but it fully captures my attitude towards my spare time. I've spent the past 10 months working on this conference, and I operate either in full throttle energy or complete exhaustion. My grandma called me a "mover and shaker for a reason! I swear if you attend, I'll be awake.

Come check out the website to learn more, because it's going to be awesome and I'd like to see you there :)

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