Wednesday, November 14

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Surprise!

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's cookbook:
Gardeners' Gourmet
Compiled and published by the Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc.
First edition 1970; subsequent editions 1973 & 1978

If recipe titles are any indication, Watergate Salad wasn't the only surprise at a Nixon-era dinner party. Flipping through Gardeners' Gourmet, we found a multitude of recipes with "Surprise" in the title. This prompted a "guess-the-surprise" game at SFAWHQ (never go up against Melissa Hall in where community cookbook trivia is concerned), but then it got us thinking.

Was cocktail-party food more playful 40 years ago than it is now? If so, why? Do you like surprises in your food? For that matter, when is the last time you had a dish with "surprise" in the name? Do I smell a holiday theme party idea?

If you're getting nostalgic—or just curious—at this point, read on for three surprise recipes. (Spoiler alert: We're going to tell you what the surprise is. But see if you can stump your buddies.)

The recipe: Sweet Potato Surprise
The surprise: marshmallows

2 c cooked sweet potatoes
1 egg
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
8 marshmallows
1/2 c corn flakes

Combine warm mashed potatoes with beaten egg, salt, and pepper. Add a little milk to the mixture if it is too dry to form into balls. Make 8 balls with a marshmallow in the center of each. Roll in crushed corn flakes and bake on cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Can be fried in deep fat until golden brown, if desired. Serves 8.
Mrs. Joe Baird, Inverness

The recipe: Surprise Cheese Balls
The surprise: olives

2 sticks oleo or butter
10-oz stick Cracker Barrel cheese
2 c flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper
4-oz bottle stuffed olives
Garlic powder to taste

Mix grated cheese, flour, salt, pepper, and softened butter and make into small balls. Punch hole in the center and put in one half of an olive. Close ball and roll into round ball. Grease cookie sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Makes approximately 60 balls. These may be frozen before baking.
Mrs. Charles LeBlanc, Gulfport

The recipe: Surprise Muffins
The surprise: cherry preserves

2 c all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
1 c milk
1/2 c cherry preserves

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Form well in center. Beat egg and milk together and pull into well. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened—about 25 strokes. Batter will be lumpy. Fill greased muffin cups 1/3 full. Carefully center 2 teaspoons preserves in batter, then cover with additional batter to fill cups 2/3 full. Bill in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.
Mrs. Sam Gunter, Clinton