One day when my daughter asked me if we could make up a batch of poor man’s pudding, I discovered that I could no longer find my favourite recipe. So instead, I went looking for one on the internet. What I came up with was one that looked more or less right, but was subtitled “war cake.”
Figuring it was just another name for this frugal dish, I printed off the recipe and gave it to her to make. It turns out, though, I had stumbled upon a completely different and delicious dessert!
History of War Cakes
War cake dates back to the American civil war, and was popular on both sides of the Atlantic during the WWI and depression eras. The recipes is characterized by the absence of milk, butter and eggs – ingredients that would have been scarce during wartime.
Shortening replaces the butter that would be in most cake recipes, and you’ll notice that the only leavening is provided by the baking soda in hot water.
The hot water also replaces the milk and eggs for the purpose of providing moisture. If you find the cake dry, you can increase the moisture by placing a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven during baking.
No-egg, no-milk, no-butter cake – but still moist and delicious! (Image from a photo by Celeste Lindell/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
You’ll notice that this recipe uses two cups of brown sugar, a more expensive ingredient even today. Many other war cakes have a smaller amount of sugar, and it certainly would be more frugal these days to replace the brown sugar with white.
The pound of raisins is also a bit of a splurge for families on a budget, as are the optional nuts. If you are trying to be frugal, do leave out the nuts. But the raisins (and the brown sugar) give this cake a good deal of its texture and flavour. Don’t skimp on them!
Remember that the recipe makes two loaves, and that it’s supposed to be a little bit of an extravagance when you are otherwise living a rather austere life.
WAR CAKE RECIPE
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 tbsp shortening
1 tsp each: cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 tsp each ground cloves and ginger
1 lb raisins
1/2 lb chopped walnuts and/or almonds (optional)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp hot water
In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, hot water, shortening, spices and raisins. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool for up to several hours, stirring often. The mixture will thicken up during the cooling period. Don’t rush and add the flour too soon, or the cake won’t bake properly.
Gradually mix in flour and soda. The batter should be thick. Pour into two well oiled and floured loaf pans.
Bake 45-60 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. The resulting loaf should look like a darker, more dense version of banana bread.
Serve slices with a little butter at breakfast or tea time, or as a sweet finish to a hearty meal like stew or shepherd’s pie.
A couple of years ago I tried to make homemade iced tea from a recipe at the Hillbilly Housewife web site. Tea, sugar, and lemons were relatively inexpensive, and they were also easy to store in large quantity. This meant we had an easy drink for summer that wouldn’t require frequent trips to the grocery store, and it also wouldn’t break the bank.
The problem is, the recipe was hit and miss. Sometimes we left the tea a little too long, and it would be too bitter. Sometimes the sugar didn’t dissolve right, and there would be a nasty sludge in the bottom of the jug. And if we didn’t drink it fast enough (which happened whenever the kids decided it didn’t taste enough like the powdered stuff) the darned stuff would start to ferment in the fridge!
I have a new recipe for iced tea this summer, thanks to one of our local tea vendors. She had a vat of it made up for the Canada Day celebrations, and even the kids approved. It’s quick and easy to make, and there’s no mess from juicing lemons, measuring sugar, and all that other stuff. You may know this recipe as an “Arnold Palmer” or a “half and half,” depending on where you live. If you haven’t tried it yet, do make up a batch with your favourite tea. It’s a real crowd pleaser!
Easy Homemade Iced Tea Recipe
1 part strong black tea, steeped four minutes
1 part lemonade
sugar or honey for extra sweetness (optional)
Just brew up the tea and mix it with your lemonade. If it isn’t quite sweet enough you can add sugar, honey, agave syrup or whatever sweetener you prefer. But if your lemonade was already sweetened, do taste before adding any sweetening.
If you want to cool the drink quickly, freeze a little of the lemonade in an ice cube tray earlier in the day. Pop those cubes into the warm tea, and then tuck your jug of iced tea into the fridge for about a half hour.
Choice of Lemonade for Your Arnold Palmer Iced Tea
You can use homemade or bottled lemonade for this recipe. You can also mix it up from frozen concentrate, which I find really convenient. Putting the frozen concentrate directly into the warm tea helps to cool it faster. Just remember you also have to add water to dilute the concentrate!
Another option is to substitute a little grapefruit or lime juice for some of the lemonade. Grapefruit is the “secret ingredient” in the California iced tea blends I’ve enjoyed in the past, so even if you aren’t a big fan of grapefruit don’t turn your nose up at this variation without first giving it a try!
You can use a commercial limeade or citrus punch if you want to experiment with a tropical iced tea. And if you’re really adventurous, try a completely different fruit juice like raspberry or peach. If the folks at Snapple and Arizona can have a whole line of flavoured iced teas, you can surely find a few blends your family will enjoy! (Or just start with one of their bottled teas, and add lemonade to it!)
If you like bubbles, substitute soda water for a little of the water in your tea or lemonade. Or use your favourite citrus soda instead of the lemonade.
What Kind of Tea to Use
Choose any tea you like for the base – whether it be your everyday orange pekoe, a flavoured tea, or an herbal blend like Celestial Seasonings Chamomile & Lavender, or Ginger & Turmeric. My absolute favourite version of this recipe was made with a lovely orange cream Early Grey that I bought from The Curling Leaf.
Of course both green and white teas will also work, instead of a black tea.
How do you take your iced tea? I’d love to hear about your preferred iced tea blends, and if you decide to try this recipe please let me know how it turns out!
This is an expanded version of an earlier piece I published on Bubblews (now defunct) in July 2013
Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Creations is a line of chocolate chip cookies inspired by the ice cream parlour experience. Brought to market in the United States in 2014, they are still being marketed as “New” in Canada in 2016. Three flavours are being sold under the Christie label in Canada, each in a 280 g bag that’s just a little more than half the weight of a bag of classic Chips Ahoy cookies.
My husband came home last night with a festive teal bag containing the Mint Chocolate Chip flavour. The bag is decorated with hearts, pictures of ice cream cones, and words like, “Fun,” “Yum,” “Delicious,” and “Chillin’.” The other two flavours currently marketed here are the Dulce de Leche and Mocha Flavour Chunk cookies. Other flavours sold in the US market include an intriguing Root Beer Float cookie, which I’d very much like to try.
Chips Ahoy Mint Chocolate Chip cookies look a fair bit like homemade slice and bake cookies. They are rather irregularly shaped, and just about 1/4” thick. The diameter of the cookies is about 1-1/2”, which is a little on the small side. The image on the package shows a perfectly round cookie packed with chocolate chips and larger mint chunks, but my cookies had very few visible chocolate chips. Most of the mint chunks were inside the cookie, rather than being visible on top.
Taste and Mouth Feel
The cookies are dry and crumbly, which makes it really easy to break them just taking the out of the package. The mouth feel, while soft, is also rather dry. There is none of the creaminess I would associate with a home baked cookie, and eating just one of them had me reaching for liquid refreshment!
The cookie dough itself is incredibly bland. The cookie doesn’t taste like chocolate, or even very sweet. It does a really great job of reminding you that you’re eating empty calories. The one or two teensy chocolate chips that fell off the cookie when I picked it up, also had little taste. They were also about as dry as the dough. I’ve had no-name chocolate chips that had more flavour and moisture than these.
The mint chunks do stand out from the rest of the cookie, what with being green. They are decent-sized chunks that look like they were sliced into irregular rectangles. They do not look like white chocolate that’s been flavoured and dyed, but rather like some sort of sugary confection.
When I tasted one, it gave the distinct impression that I was eating green, mint-flavoured icing sugar made into little cakes and sliced. It’s minty and sweet, but with a salty after-taste. And again, the creamy rich mouth feel is completely missing. Eating one of these things is sort of like eating a mint-flavoured communion wafer: there’s something that sticks to the roof of your mouth briefly, and there’s a cool burst of mint
The mint is about the only thing I tasted when I put the cookie in my mouth. It’s a decent flavour, just strong enough to stand out but not so much that it’s overwhelming.
Ingredients and Nutrition
Like most commercial cookies, the Chips Ahoy Mint Chocolate Chip cookies are chock full of modified tropical oils and milk ingredients, dextrose, and glucose-fructose (aka high-fructose corn syrup.) There is no actual chocolate in the dough, which helps to explain why the cookie itself is so tasteless.
I was surprised to find that both the chocolate chips and the mint chunks have natural flavouring. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for the fact that the flavours are essentially compressed into little balls of oily sugar.
Two Chips Ahoy Mint Chocolate Chip cookies (24 g together) make up a single serving, and together they supply 110 calories – about what the diet-conscious crowd is aiming for when they choose a snack these days. The cookies are made from enriched flour, so the portion does provide 6% of the daily value of iron. It also contains 4.5 g of fat, including 13% of the daily allotted saturated fat. Additionally, you would take in 75 mg of sodium (3%,) 16 g of carbohydrate (5%, of which none is fiber) and 1 g of protein.
Basically, what that says is these lilliputian confections are unlikely to satisfy a sugar craving, let alone to make the snacker feel full. I did find a recipe for a homemade chocolate mint chip cookies, which is made with just a few simple ingredients – including real cocoa in the dough! These home baked cookies also provide a little fiber, to help make you feel full after eating them.
I found the Chips Ahoy Mint Chocolate Chip cookies spectacularly unsatisfying. They had very little in the way of taste, and I was really disappointed that a cocoa-brown cookie didn’t taste even remotely like chocolate.
I only ate one of the two cookies that constitute a portion, as the tastelessness and dryness of the cookie just left me wanting to rehydrate my mouth and find a food that would actually taste good. I could have eaten four very flavourful Christie Triscuit crackers at only 80 calories, and would have felt satisfied because of the full flavour and the fiber content. I also could have made the homemade chocolate mint chip cookies, and eaten a single larger cookie that would have more taste and better mouth feel. Or I could tweak a healthy oatmeal cookie recipe to get a similar taste combination, but with far better nutrient content.
I could also have eaten one cup of cut up mango for the 110 calories – and taken in a whole whack of vitamins and minerals along with the tantalizing tanginess of the fruit. And of course those who’ve been reading the 24 Carrot Diet for a while will know that I could eat more than four medium carrots instead of those two puny cookies (see “How Many Calories are in a Carrot?” for more on carrot nutrition.)
Even compared to other commercially prepared cookies, the Chips Ahoy Mint Chocolate cookies were a real dud. Nothing about them reminded me of ice cream; in fact the texture was pretty much the opposite of anything dairy or made with cream.
I would have to give these cookies 1 star out of 5. They failed in terms of taste and texture, quality of ingredients, and similarity to anything ice cream related. Additionally, the package size was smaller than for a classic Chips Ahoy cookie, which means these cookies were also more expensive.
I would not buy these cookies again, and do not recommend them to my readers.
If you found this review helpful and you want to share it, please use the graphic below
This review was written in honour of Chocolate Chip Day, which falls on May 15th in 2016
Mint and chocolate chips (Image: m01229/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
Mint chocolate chip ice cream (mmconcepcion.wikispaces.com/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)
Chocolate mint cookies and packaging (Image: theimpulsivebuy/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 )