Tuesday, February 8, 2011

8 February 1957 “Eggless Cupcakes, Those Pesky Weeds or Easy Food and Cheap Medicine?”

I thought I would share two eggless cake recipes I enjoy. Now, I have a generous supply of eggs from my lovely hens, but sometimes I might be low.

The other day was a baking day and I had used up many eggs for breakfast and other things and had only enough eggs for next day’s breakfast (as my hens fresh eggs wouldn’t be laid until later the next day)

chocalmondcupcakeThis chocolate cupcake recipe is SO moist and wonderful. I often use this even when I have eggs available. You can see I made a very rough and natural frosting and it was very delicious. These may have to be sold this summer at the farm fair for pin money.

Eggs Chocolate Cupcakes

2 1/4 C.  unbleached flour

2 C.  sugar

1 C.  unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 TBS vanilla extract

2/3 cup oil

1 1/2 Tsp. white vinegar

2 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift the dry ingredients (if you don’t have a sifter, put dry ingredients together in bowl and then whisk until blended).

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Set aside.

I mix the oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar in my Pyrex 2 cup measure, as there is room enough. Give it a good stir.

Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Don’t mix too much, it is okay to be lumpy.

Pour in Cupcake cups and bake about 20-25 minutes. Check with toothpick for doneness.

Now, I used an almond-butter frosting. This works with peanut butter as well, but Gussie (who works on a local farm) had some expired almond butter when their farm store closed for the season. I happily took it. Waste not, want not, as they say.

Almond Butter Frosting

1 C.  butter softened

1 C. chunky almond butter

3 C. confectioners sugar. (You could use more up to 5 cups depending on how sweet you wanted it, but the cupcakes are nice and sweet so I prefer a less sweet icing)

1 TBS milk or Cream

Simply whip butter and almond butter until nice and fluffy (think of how you want your frosting to look) then mix in sugar and milk.

This makes more than enough for the cupcakes, so I put the rest in a mason jar in the ice box and use it as a spread on toast or scones. It also goes wonderfully on a jam sandwich!

Now, here in the late 1950’s we are prone to excess. We seem to be living in a world of plenty. Many things are becoming more affordable and there seems to be a vast endlessness to what we can have at our fingertips. Such bounty, therefore, often leads to a feeling of security.

Such a feeling I found when perusing this little article in one of my magazines about those ‘pesky weeds’ and how they stand in the way of our desire for that ‘perfect lawn’.

As I have said many times, being an older homemaker I cannot but help to think I would sometimes question these motives. There was a time, not long ago (12 years or so prior) that I would  have recalled being hungry and knowing of the want and need of food especially in the war ravaged homes of Europe and Britain. My own lawn, as many other’s had done, may well have given way to veg and other edibles. Today, here in 1957 however, my plantings would seem to be more focused on appearance to actual usage.Fast forward to 21st century and we are well aware of the affects of these ‘weed killers’ to pets, children, the soil and so on.

weedarticle Here, however, I find it interesting how this article points out these various ‘bad weeds’ and the appropriate chemical to do away with them. Let’s take a look, however, at what these plants actually provided for our ancestors when times were tough. Also, before medicine as we know it some of these weeds were also used, by our Victorian and earlier ancestors, to treat ailments.

dandelion First, we have our old friend the dandelion. Probably the most belligerent and determined plant that has fought with the lover of lawns for years. Yet, by its very hardy nature and ability to grow in affect without any aid from us, should tell us that we might want to consider it as part of our food supply.

First let’s look at the suggested aid in destroying this plant 2 4 D. Here is an interesting bit of info on this pesticide, which is STILL used widely today in our country (though I believe it is banned in Europe).

2,4-D was originally developed in 1941 to increase plant growth. Soon, it was discovered to have an even more useful role in agriculture as an herbicide to control weed growth. A mixture of 2,4-D and a related chemical called 2,4,5-T was found to be a more effective herbicide than 2,4-D alone. This mixture was called Agent Orange and was used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War to increase the visibility for war planes by destroying plant undergrowth and crops. The usage of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T increased through the next 15 years. In response to its potential to cause cancer, and other health concerns, use of 2,4,5-T was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1983. Although 2,4-D use has been allowed to continue by the EPA, its health effects are under review.

Now, the dandelion itself has so many uses and edible bits. The leaves are quite good in any salad or in place of lettuce. The roots can also be toasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute. There are endless uses of the plant. And, surprisingly, a natural plant food for other plants can be drived from it.

Here are the medicinal uses of the plant:

Dandelion is also used for the treatment of the gall bladder, kidney and urinary disorders, gallstones, jaundice, cirrhosis, hypoglycemia, dyspepsia with constipation, edema associated with high blood pressure and heart weakness, chronic joint and skin complaints, gout, eczema and acne. As a tonic, Dandelion strengthens the kidneys. An infusion of the root encourages the steady elimination of toxins from the body. Dandelion is a powerful diuretic but does not deplete the body of potassium.

Research is revealing that the many constituents of Dandelion including Taraxacin, Taraxacoside, Inulin, Phenolic acids, Sesquiterpene lactones, Triterpenes, Coumarins, Catortenoids and Minerals, mainly Potassium and calcium, are very valuable in curing a number of disorders and illnesses. Dandelion is traditionally used as a tonic and blood purifier, for constipation, inflammatory skin conditions, joint pain, eczema and liver dysfunction, including liver conditions such as hepatitis and jaundice.

Another interesting use of the plant is when the flowers and leaves are placed in a closed brown bag with unripe fruit, the  flowers and leaves of Dandelion release ethylene gas which ripen the fruit. You can also make a dark red dye from the roots and a cosmetic skin lotion made by distilling the leaves at the base of the plant in water are suppose to help with freckles.

This is knowledge that our ancestors would have known by course and certainly would have preferred all that from an easy to grow plant over lush green lawns.

plaintain Next, we have the plantian. Now, I don’t know about you, but my yard often produces these, even is spots where little else will grow. They are actually a pretty plant and I have used the leaves in arrangements for my kitchen and dining room table. However, they have many uses.

The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Being used as a panacea (medicinal for everything) in some cultures, one American Indian name for the plant translates to "life medicine."

The young leaves of the plant are great in salads and also lightly cooked with other foods. They are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. It is interesting to note that things such as riboflavin are now, here in the 1950’s, being added to our wonderful white pre sliced bread, while out in the yard we are killing a natural source of it with military grade poison. We, however, are unaware of this here in 1950. We believe that our government would never let a product be sold that could hurt us. Of course, we also are constantly bombarded by ads for cigarettes, but that is another story altogether.

I have rather found this an interesting idea, these weeds, and will continue talking about these next post. But, imagine, if it were war time or any crisis and we were left to look about us for food and food production. Here we see many plants that, despite our chemicals which in fact hurt us more than the plant, continue to survive. That is an easy source of vitamins, nutrients and ways to fill our belly. Many of these, as well, make wonderful teas or coffee substitutes. Though I am over a decade away from the War, my natural ‘make do and mend’ instinct of the WWII bride would often shake my head at the ‘young people today’ and wonder ‘what a waste, what a shameful waste’ as I save my slivers of soap in old stockings. Garbage and waste would be as sinful to me as anything.


  1. I just copied the recipe to give a go! Looks delicious.

    I have been researching our local edible weeds, as our yard is so dry (being Colorado) that, besides our actual vegetable beds, our lawn is mainly weeds. I'm experimenting this year (when they begin to grow) with making 1. Dandelion Syrup 2. Dandelion tea 3. Dandelion salad 4. maybe Dandelion wine

    We have mallow like crazy as well. I've read that when the root is boiled it creates a "meringue" that can be used in place of egg whites. I've also read it can be made into "marshmallows". It also is a good salad green and tea with many medicinal purposes.

    Instead of fighting it, I'm going to try and use it!


  2. Wow, I didn't know all that about those "weeds!"

    1957 -- Ah, how you are describing things now is the 50's that I remember. People wanting to be modern. People eager to forget the past with the Depression and WWII. People wanting to keep up with the Joneses. People wanting that perfect lawn and the new car and new furniture every two years.

    My father was born in 1915, but had a lot of friends who were much younger, like the people you describe in this article -- wanting the newer, more modern things, not the "war-bride" types.

    He had nothing but disdain for them and their showy stuff.

    "Yeah," he'd comment sardonically, "they have a perfect lawn and perfect furniture and a new car, but when you go to visit them, you don't even get offered a cup of coffee! And, if they bring you coffee, they don't have milk for it. And if they have milk, they don't have any sugar. They spent all their money on their blankety-blank lawn and don't have money to offer a cup of coffee with milk and sugar hospitality to a guest!!"

  3. Mmmm! I love almonds! I'll have to try both recipes this week.

    Our lawn down here in Georgia is plagued by dandelions. I have never thought of using them for anything and now am quite excited! When it gets too hot to grow lettuce I'll try dandelion greens. I have read that the juice in the stem of the dandelion can be used to treat warts. I haven't gotten the chance to try it though. Never heard of plantains. We also have lots of clover. I'm looking forward to more "weed" information.

  4. LPM:I have heard of that about mallow as well. You will have to let us know how it works out.OH and I forgot to mention dandelion wine! I have a book my MIL had in her family that has so many wildflower wild berry wines. I shall share those when I can and perhaps bottle up some this spring and summer!
    Mary R: How funny and true about the hospitality over the 'way my home looks'. I think you might find that the case today as well. Everything new and decorating mag pretty and nary a homemade morsel or good hearty cup of brewed coffee at hand!
    Minnie22m What fun! There is SO many things one can do with dandelions and the leaves are really quite good in salad. Make sure, if you do use any fertilizer or anything, to give them a good wash before hand. That is interesting about the wart treatment. I am curious to try the distilled water/stem leaf solution on my 'freckles' this summer. We shall see what comes of it.

  5. 50sgal: I'm also wanting to try the freckles solution. I wonder how many treatments until possible results are evident? Also how often should the solution be applied? Once a day, twice a week?

  6. Minnie22-I am going to try some various solutions myself this spring (when I have access to the dandelions) and see what works best.
    I did find this tidbit, however: "Squeeze the juice from the leaves of dandelion, and wipe their skin with freckles, 3-4 times a day. Instead, the juice can still use a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide, after which it is desirable to lubricate the skin nourishing cream." It might be worth a try.

  7. I've always wanted to make dandelion coffee... but never got enough of them to make even a cup. Not having any grass at all doesn't help

  8. I just discovered your blog today and I absolutely love it. It lived in the 50s for a short time. I was born March of 1959. I enjoy reading about the post WWII era. What a fascinating time of change with Levittown and many new highways built as well as motels, new household appliances, etc. Like you, our family likes to live simply. I look forward to reading more of your fascinating posts!....Denise


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