The inspiration for today’s recipe comes from this Texas magazine, a Sunday insert to the Houston Chronicle, dated September 13, 1970, which I found among a stack of cookbooks at a recent estate sale.

IMG_5767 On the cover is Ann Criswell, the Houston Chronicle’s first food editor. IMG_5766

Ann was the Chronicle’s food editor from 1966 until she retired in 2000.  I still have tons of recipes I clipped during her time as editor, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s.  The Chronicle’s food section was the first food section in Houston, and the Houston Post followed suit a week later.  The food section, which featured an average of 60 recipes per week, was largely geared towards middle income families.  One of her most significant contributions (in my opinion) was arranging the recipes so that they could be cut out of the newspaper in one piece — a practice I wish Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and other food magazines would adopt.

In an interview last fall, she reminisced about what a different world it was when she started the food section in 1966.   She said that she was constantly discovering and researching new foods that came on the market — things like arugula and starfruit.  As the recipes in the magazine reflect, there was a heavy reliance on canned soups.

In the section of the magazine on vegetables, she shares a secret:

IMG_5827 (2)

She goes on to advise that “[c]anned vegetables serve a purpose, of course, and can be company best . . . .  But no woman should consider herself an accomplished cook until she has mastered fresh vegetables.”  I found it kind of amusing that of the 14 vegetable recipes, half of them called for canned or frozen vegetables.

I found some of the ads interesting too, particularly this one, for the Trim Gym:


My, how exercise has changed!  This looks like exercise that even I could do, which doesn’t look much harder than lying around on a broken ironing board, and I don’t think you need a Lululemon outfit to use it:


Seriously — if you know where I can get one, please let me know!  (I’ve also been considering taking up bull riding, because even if you’re really, really good at it, it only takes 8 seconds, and that’s about my limit for exercise.)

I had a really hard time picking out a recipe from the magazine to make.  Although they might have been awesome in 1970, they sounded awfully unappealing today — dishes like “Tomato Wine Sauce” made with a can of condensed tomato soup, and “Swiss Shrimp Fondue” made with frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup, Swiss cheese, and small frozen shrimp.  But then this recipe for Hot Jalapeno Corn Bread called to me:


With the exception of the addition of 1/4 cup corn oil, the recipe is pretty much the same as the one you can still find on packages of cornbread mix today.  It bakes up dense, and moist, and goes really well with barbecued anything.  My husband heated up a few slices in a skillet the next day, and it was perhaps even better, with its lightly toasted bottoms.

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (can use low-fat)
  • 3 cups yellow cornbread mix (I used three packages of Martha White)
  • ¼ cup corn oil
  • 1 cup canned cream-style corn (the recipe calls for a No. 303 can, but I couldn't figure out what that was)
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • l large grated onion (optional -- I omitted)
  • 1 4-ounce can jalapenos, chopped (I used jarred pickled jalapenos)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place eggs in a medium mixing bowl and beat slightly. Blend in remaining ingredients. Pour batter into a well-greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, being careful not to let it dry out. Cut into squares and serve.

Easy and delicious


 Here’s to you Ann — thanks for the memories!




I found these colorful vintage clickers on ebay.  Clickers, according to Wikipedia, consist of a thin piece of metal or plastic “held in a casing so that the metal is slightly torqued; depressing one end of the metal causes it to pop out of alignment and releasing it causes it to pop back into alignment, each time making a sharp click” — kind of like TMJ.  During WWII, clickers known as Airborne Crickets, were used by paratroopers of the 101st Airborne to covertly distinguish between friend and foe during the invasion of Normandy.  Soldiers would click their cricket once, and receiving two clicks in return signaled friendly troops.

Clickers should not be confused with Clackers, the deadly toy popular in the 1960s and 1970s.



According to Wikipedia, “Clackers were discontinued when reports came out of children becoming injured while playing with them. Fairly heavy and fast-moving, and made of hard acrylic plastic, the balls would occasionally shatter upon striking each other.”  Well, duh.

As toys, clickers are cheery and fun — for about a minute.  After that, the sound and the child become really annoying.  If you ever find yourself with one of those guests who doesn’t know when to go home, just sit a kid next to them with a clicker or two and see how long it takes for them to hightail it out of there.

Of the three clickers, the monkey is my favorite, and the inspiration for today’s recipe.  Did you ever sing the “monkey see, monkey do” song with your kids?  It went like this:

musical notes

When you clap clap clap your hands,

The monkey clap clap claps his hands

Monkey see, monkey do,

Monkey does the same as you.

The song is repeated with other actions such as stamp your feet, turn around, and jump up high, until you can stand it no longer, which happens pretty quickly.  I think the person who wrote the lyrics, however, probably never saw a monkey at the zoo, for if he had, the refrain would probably be something more like the one I used to sing with the kids:

musical notes

Monkey see, monkey do,

Monkey flings his poo at you.

Another version, popularized by Michael Scott on The Office, ends with “Monkey pees all over you.”  Keepin’ it real.

Monkeys like bananas, right?  Actually, monkeys enjoy most fruits, and those who live in banana-growing climates certainly enjoy bananas.  I like bananas too, but they tend to blacken faster than we eat them.  Whenever I have blackened bananas I think, “Oh, cool, I’ll make banana bread,” and then I never get around to it and soon the fruit flies appear.  Gross.  Remember ant farms, the gift you hoped your kids would never receive?  I think this year I’ll slip a “fruit fly farm” in the kids’ stockings — they’ll be so excited!


Do it yourself “fruit fly farm”

Inspired by the monkey clicker, and the blackening bananas in my fruit bowl, I finally made  Banana Macadamia Bread.  The recipe is adapted from one I originally saw on Essence of Emeril, back before he “bammed” his way to celebrity chef status.  Judging from the number of 4-star reviews the original recipe received, I’m not the only one who loves it.  You can alter the amount of bananas and nuts, but I highly recommend using butter instead of shortening for a truly delicious bread.

Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (approximately 3 small bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped macadamia nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the bananas. Add the baking soda, salt, flour, and cinnamon, and mix thoroughly. Stir in macadamia nuts.
  3. Pour the dough into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until top is browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Allow to cool in pan before removing. To remove, place a plate over pan, invert and gently remove pan.


Ready for the oven 


 Cooling before being removed from the pan


 Filling the house with its wonderful aroma


 Monkey see, monkey do

Monkey eats banana bread with you.