Category Archives: Recipes

Penny-Wise Porterhouse Steak…


Chambers Fireless Stove - circa 1920

Image credit: Wiki Commons (public domain)

I really enjoy going through old patterns and old recipes. Every time I stop by a yard sale or such, I’m usually looking for old stuff people don’t value any more, like their grandmother’s recipe box, dusty old books, or pile of crochet magazines and doilies. Or handmade bedspreads that no one wants, because they acquired holes over the decades of memories and use.

To me, looking through these things is like walking back in time. I like to think about the people who held and used these things. What their stories might be. What life might have been like for them.

I probably got this trait from my Grandma Dot, who also hung onto little unsung treasures from generations of our own family. When family passed away, while it seemed other relatives were always interested in whatever furniture and such, my grandma was the one who couldn’t bear to toss out the letters, recipes and patterns. And I totally get that.

Last year my uncle passed on to me a couple of boxes of loose recipes that were in Grandma Dot’s possession. Inside is a mix of recipes that were hers, but also recipes from other members of the family. My great-grandmother, my Aunt Hazel, and so many others. We’re not entirely sure where they are all from. I recognize my grandmother’s handwriting, but no one else’s.

There were also several recipes saved from pamphlets, advertisements, product wrappers and books.

One such interesting piece was a simple typed up sheet of recipes from the local gas company’s “Home Service Department,” circa 1930-40s. Likely a little thank you to the “lady of the house.” It also contained a little promo for the Chambers Stove and the gas-powered Electrolux refrigerator.

Ten recipes were crammed onto the front/back page, but the one that stood out to me most was the “Penny-Wise Porterhouse Steak.” (You can read the whole recipe here.)

Reading over the recipe, which mixes 3 parts ground beef with 1 part ground pork + egg, grated onion, salt/pepper and cracker crumbs – it sounds very much like a meat loaf recipe! So I’m thinking, where’s the “steak” in all this.

Until I read this, after the instructions to combine everything: “Shape to resemble steak about 1½” thick.”

And then the instructions essentially have you broil said fake-steak (aka meatloaf) in the oven until it’s good and browned. “Serves 5.”

No wonder my dad’s idea of steak was shoe leather well-done.

It’s interesting though. Grandma Dot (and both my grandpas) survived The Great Depression. Both my grandfather’s served in WWII and Korea. Their generation understood tough times and shortages. And they figured out ways to get by.

“Penny-Wise” recipes were just part of that life.

But I guess the thing that really struck me was… today it’s just meatloaf. But back then, they played it up as “steak.” Giving the dish some dignity, even if in name only.

My gut instinct is a deep aversion to putting lipstick on a zombie. Call it my Gen-X rebellious sensibilities.

But today, with all our family is going through, I think I see that perhaps they weren’t just trying to make something worthless look appealing.  Maybe they were trying to preserve their memories and experiences during an incredibly painful and scary time.

A time when I know my grandparents weren’t sure what their future would look like. What the US would look like. Here they were, newly wed and all hell broke loose in the world. I can’t imagine.

So while everyone had to adjust, it makes sense to me, from that perspective, that it wasn’t just about making a simple food seem higher class than it was.

But about keeping their chin up, their spirits healthy and still gathering around the table as a family to be thankful.

Even if it was just for broiled, “steak” shaped meatloaf.

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2 Comments

Filed under Friends and Family, NaBloPoMo, Recipes

Penny-Wise Porterhouse Steak


I thought it’d be interesting to share a recipe from my Grandma Dot’s collection.

She was born November 20th, 1919.  And my Grandpa Jack was born the very next day on November 21st, 1919.

96 years ago TODAY.

And I guess if I stop to think about it, Grandpa Chester was born August 27, 1916.

99+ years ago. 

Wow.  No way. He was 55 when I was born.

Anyway, I have a pile of recipes from both sides of my grandparents that I am going through.

This one was interesting to me as a sign of the times, stretching every cent.

Penny-wise Porterhouse Steak

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 egg
2 T. grated onion
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 c. very fine cracker crumbs

Combine meat, egg, crumbs and seasonings. Mix well. Shape to resemble steak, about 1 1/2″ thick. Preheat broiler pan until thoroughly hot. Place steak on broiler pan so that surface of meat is 3″ from flame. When brown, turn. Again place surface of meat 3″ from flame and continue to cook until steak is well browned. Serves 5.

Seven simple ingredients.

Simple recipe.

Feed a family of 5.

Just make sure you get the shape right.

 

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Filed under NaBloPoMo, Recipes

Back To School – Easy Homemade Cereal Bars


Here’s a recipe we love that uses up the last dregs of peanut butter in the jar and of cereal in the box.

You know… how everyone eats up most of the container and then leaves that little bit that no one ever seems to finally finish off?  I feel you sisters.

I prefer not to throw out good food.  So when the peanut butter is nearly gone, I scrape down the jar with a rubber spatula.  And when open cereal gets a little stale, I toast it (remove any raisins or other fruit, etc. during the toasting).

And I make these cereal bars with the last bits of unwanted scraps (with a little supplementing).  Actually you can toast the cereal and eat it as cereal if you want, but then I wouldn’t have the excuse to make these. 

The family LOVES this recipe.  (Just made a batch this morning in fact.)  You can mix nuts and other things in too, so this is a basic, bare-bones recipe that is customizable too.   And of course you don’t have to use stale cereal.

You don’t have to toast the cereal either, but we do think it tastes better since it soaks up the gooey liquid.  The crisper to start the better.

Homemade Cereal Bars
Quick and Easy No-Bake Recipe!

  • image7 cups toasted cereal (oatmeal, corn/bran flakes, granola, crispy rice, oat rings, nearly anything will work)
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
    (for a maple flavor, use pancake syrup or real maple syrup)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or candy-coated chocolate

 To toast cereal, spread 2-3 cups in single layer on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes (watch it closely) under broiler.  Don’t toast raisins or fruit. (The second batch of cereal toasts much faster than the first, and ovens vary, so watching is key.)

Grease bottom and edges of a 13×18 pan with spray or a finger dipped in grapeseed oil.  Combine sugar and corn syrup in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla.  Stir until smooth. Fold in toasted cereal mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour mix into the greased pan. Use WET hands to press the mix into the pan evenly. Cool at room temperature or stick in the fridge. Cut into bars or tear into bites if you can’t wait.  (Pizza cutter works great!)  Store in an airtight container.

🙂 You may share my recipe as long as you include my name (Julia M. Chambers) and a link to my blog and/or this post. 🙂

Happy back to school y’all!

Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.” You know you want to! : )


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Filed under Friends and Family, Random Thoughts, Recipes