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Home economists for the holidays

Utility-sponsored cooking programs ended, but favorite recipes live on

Before Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart or Paula Deen, there were the local home economists from what used to be Mountain Fuel Supply and Utah Power & Light.

They weren't TV hosts, but they starred in thousands of ladies' club luncheons, Relief Society homemaking meetings, school assemblies and community events. These cooking specialists demonstrated recipes, mixing a generous pinch of advice with the chopping and stirring — how to conserve energy, what to do in a power outage, or how to use a gas grill, food processor or microwave oven.

"We entertained lots and lots of groups, and the ladies seemed to love it," said Jeanne Fenton, who worked for Mountain Fuel (now Questar) for five years.

The programs were discontinued more than 15 years ago, victims ofcorporate mergers and cost-cutting. But the recipes aren't forgotten — they're still served at family meals and holiday parties.

The Deseret Morning News recently asked some of these former home economists to visit our test kitchen and share memories and recipes. (Unfortunately, changes in addresses, married names and phone numbers kept us from tracking down more of them.) The two companies had enjoyed a friendly rivalry, so it was a fun reunion.

"What a blast from the past!" said Margaret Oler, who works in Rocky Mountain Power's media relations. As a child, she went to a Utah Power & Light cooking show with her mother. She was so impressed she decided that's what she'd be when she grew up.

From 1981 to 1991, she traveled to schools, churches and community events throughout southwestern Utah, lugging groceries, serving pieces, and small appliances.

"I had to have a station wagon because of all the stuff I carried around," she said. "But it was great. People were always excited to have you come."

Christmas demonstrations were the most fun, said Linda Gubler Frost, with Mountain Fuel for four years. From autumn until early December, home cooks flocked to the gas and power company auditoriums to watch the cooking, sample the food and take home a recipe booklet.

"We would print 50,000 booklets each season," said Pat Hemming, with Utah Power & Light for 16 years. "We decorated the auditorium, so everything was really festive."

Becky Eckersley, formerly of Utah Power & Light, recalls sewing her dress or apron to match the tablecloth.

Occasionally, there were glitches, recalls Marion Cahoon Searle, formerly of Mountain Fuel, such as the time a co-worker's punch bowl split in half during a demonstration, with the contents gushing everywhere.

These programs came from a long tradition. As early as the 1920s, utility companies hired home economists to encourage people to replace their wood-burning stoves with new gas or electric ranges and the old icebox with refrigerators.

"The best way to have them learn about these new appliances was from someone who was well-acquainted with them," Oler said.

A case in point: In 1936, gas companies across the country gave away thousands of copies of "Be an Artist at the Gas Range," by the Mystery Chef. The cookbook's author, John MacPherson, hosted a popular "Mystery Chef" radio program, and his recipes specified cooking in a gas range or chilling in a gas refrigerator.

Later, in the '70s and '80s, the UP&L specialists introduced consumers to the microwave, showing how it could be used for tasks such as roasting potatoes and baking cakes.

"People were afraid of it because it was a new item," Hemming said. "We explained the safety features and how it cooked. We carried many a microwave oven all by ourselves, and that was in the days when they were really heavy. I'm surprised we didn't all have hernias."

As public concern grew for the environment and utility costs, the demos placed more emphasis on conservation.

But the programs finally ran their course. "In the early days, the power company was looked at as an expert in these appliances," Osler said. "But as time went on, we had all these big retail outlets and manufacturers educating the public as well. There wasn't the same need for the power company to do it."

Questar spokesman Darren Shepherd said the original purpose of the home economists' program was to market natural gas to consumers. But as times changed, the company's focus shifted to keeping gas prices down. "As popular as the programs and cookbooks were at the time, they weren't economically feasible to continue."

However, as a nod to these earlier books, Questar is compiling an employee cookbook that will be published in January. The books will likely be distributed to customers and at community events.

When the programs were cut, some of the employees retired or took other jobs with their respective companies; others wrote cookbooks and taught culinary classes; some changed careers entirely.

They've noticed a few changes in cooking styles since their era: Quicker meal preparation, more fast food and restaurant meals, and a greater awareness of nutrition.

"There were a lot more recipes for homemade breads and rolls — including sourdough," noted Searle, formerly of Mountain Fuel. "I don't think as many people bake from scratch today."

But Kathy Hoffman, now with Rocky Mountain Power, said she's not sure it's changed that much. "We use the microwave and small appliances for our fast-paced world, but still enjoy our traditional feasts with their traditional preparations."

APPLE TORTE

Dough:

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

Filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping:

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 pinches ground cloves

1/3 cup sugar

4 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (about 3-4)

1/4 cup sliced almonds

For dough: In a mixing bowl or food processor, mix butter, sugar, vanilla and flour. Press dough into the bottom and about 2 inches up the side of an ungreased 9-inch or 10-inch spring-form pan.

For filling: Using the same bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla. Beat mixture until smooth and pour over crust.

For topping: In a separate mixing bowl, combine spices with sugar. Add apples and gently toss to coat them with the sugar mixture. Arrange apple slices in a concentric circle over the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle almonds over the top. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 400 degrees and continue baking 25 minutes, or until center is set. Cool on rack before removing sides of pan. Serve at room temperature or chilled. For extra garnish, dust the edges with powdered sugar. — Marion Cahoon Searle, Mountain Fuel

SACKY'S OLYMPUS SALAD

2 cups rotini pasta

2 bunches broccoli

1/2 cup bottled Italian salad dressing

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon basil leaves

1 4-ounce can sliced olives

1 4-ounce jar diced pimiento

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain well. Separate broccoli flowerets and chop stalks. Steam broccoli 5-7 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain, plunge into cold water and drain well.

In a small bowl combine dressing with garlic, pepper, salt and basil. In a salad bowl combine pasta, broccoli, olives, pimiento, green pepper. Toss with salad dressing mixture and cheese. Serve cold. — Margaret Oler, Utah Power & Light

HOT HAM CHEESE HERO

2 cups finely diced cooked ham or turkey

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 15-by-3-inch loaf of French or Italian bread

3 tablespoons margarine or butter

1/4 pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese

Combine ham, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, lemon juice and garlic salt in a medium bowl. Cut bread in half lengthwise. Spread bread with margarine or butter. Top with cheese slices. Cover cheese slices with ham mixture. Place sandwich on a baking sheet; bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 6 servings.

Note: This is a great way to use leftover holiday ham or turkey. — Linda Gubler Frost, Mountain Fuel

SAUCY TOMATO CARROTS

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 cups shredded carrots

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash cayenne pepper

1 1/4 cups tomato juice

Melt butter in medium skillet. Add carrots and onion, saute 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Stir in flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. Add tomato juice and bring to a boil. Place in buttered 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, in a 350-degrees gas oven 50-55 minutes. — Cathy Cannon Howard, Mountain Fuel

RICE CREAM

3/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Raspberry sauce (recipe follows)

Cook rice, salt and milk in a double boiler, stirring often, about 1 1/2 hours or until rice is soft and mixture is thick. Add sugar and almond extract. Chill thoroughly. Fold in whipped cream. Serve with raspberry sauce. Serves 8.

Raspberry Sauce:

10-ounce package frozen raspberries

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine raspberries and water and bring to a boil. Put through a sieve to extract all the juice. Add enough water to make 1 1/2 cups juice. Combine a little cold water with 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture into juice, and cook and stir until mixture is thick and clear. Chill and serve with pudding. Makes 1 1/2 cups sauce. — Jeanne Fenton, Mountain Fuel

CRANBERRY-PINEAPPLE JAM

4 cups cranberries, chopped

1 1/2 cups water

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple in syrup

8 cups sugar

1/2 bottle liquid fruit pectin

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Combine cranberries and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce flame and simmer 5 minutes. Add pineapple and sugar. Bring to a hard rolling boil, boiling for 2 minutes. Remove from flame and stir in pectin, lemon juice and orange rind. Allow to stand 25 minutes. Pour into hot pint jars, adjust lids and screw-on caps and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. — Debra Dickerson, Mountain Fuel

CORNED BEEF CHEESE BALL

2 6-ounce packages corned beef or ham, finely chopped

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons Accent flavoring

Combine ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Shape mixture into a ball. Refrigerate 15-20 minutes or until serving time. Serve with assorted crackers and chips. Serves 15-20. — Jan Burdette Barker, Mountain Fuel

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE COOKIES

1 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup chocolate sprinkles

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and cocoa until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate 1 hour. Roll into 1-inch ball; dip in chocolate sprinkles. Place, sprinkles die up, 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 5 1/2 dozen. — Marilyn Davis, Mountain Fuel

LOUISIANA CHOCOLATE PRALINE PIE

2 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled

1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Beat eggs in large bowl until foamy. Beat in flour, sugar and brown sugar. Stir in melted butter, chocolate morsels and walnuts. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. — Kathy Hoffman, Utah Power & Light

ENGLISH BUTTER TOFFEE

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup butter (NOT margarine)

1 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 16-ounce package chocolate chips

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Place greased aluminum foil on cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Spread with 1/2 cup chopped nuts. Combine butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Bring to boil in a heavy saucepan. Stir continually until blue puff of smoke goes up, or the mixture is turning light brown. Take off stove immediately, pour over nuts on cookie sheet and spread thin. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of hot toffee mixture and spread as they melt. Sprinkle walnuts on top of melted chocolate and let set in the refrigerator. After it cools, break into desired serving pieces. Make about 1 1/2 pounds candy. — Annette Uhran, Mountain Fuel

QUICK HOLIDAY ROLL-UPS

1 tablespoon dry minced onion

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms

5 cubed beef steaks

1/2 cup grapefruit juice

1 cup beef bouillon

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 10 1/2-ounce can Golden Mushroom soup

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup sliced stuffed green olives

Mix onion, parsley, salt, bacon, crumbs, Worcestershire sauce and chopped mushrooms together for stuffing steak. Place equal portions of stuffing on each piece of beef. Roll up steaks and fasten securely with wooden picks or tie with string. Dredge rolls in flour.

Brown rolls well on all sides using a frying pan. Then place them in a casserole dish. Add grapefruit juice, bouillon, sliced mushrooms and soup, and cook at 325 degrees about 1 hour, or until tender. Top with sour cream and sliced olives

If using electric pressure cooker: Add grapefruit and bouillon is pressure cooker; add steak rolls and pour soup over them. Cover. Set heat selector at 425 degrees. When pressure regulator attains a steady, gentle rocking motion, turn heat selector to left until pilot light goes out. Cook 20 minutes. Turn off when pressure drops, add sliced mushrooms and leave 3 additional minutes without heat. Pour into serving bowl and top with sour cream and sliced olives. — Cathryn Baldwin Francis, Mountain Fuel and Utah Power & Light

OVEN-BAKED OMELET

9 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup ham, chopped

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3 green onions, sliced

Grease square baking dish. Blend eggs, milk, cream, mayonnaise and flour. Add ham, cheese and onions. Pour into prepared dish. Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees, for 35-40 minutes or until omelet is set and top is golden brown. Serves 6. — Pat Hemming, Mountain Fuel and Utah Power & Light

CHRISTMAS BRAID

2 packages yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 cup warm milk

5-5 1/2 cups flour, divided

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons milk

Pineapple Raisin Filling:

2 20-ounce cans crushed pineapple, drained

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 cup raisins

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Powdered Sugar Glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl. Stir in warm milk, 2 cups of the flour, butter, sugar, eggs, salt and cardamom, beating until smooth. Mix in 3-3 1/2 cups flour, until dough is moderately stiff. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, kneading until smooth and satiny (about 10 minutes). Place into lightly oiled bowl, turning so the oiled side is up. Cover; let rise until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch dough down and divide into 4 equal portions; roll each into a 12-by-9-inch rectangle. Spoon 1/4 of the Pineapple Raisin Filling (see recipe below) down the center of each rectangle. Slash dough on each side into 12 strips, then weave them diagonally over the top of the filling, to make a braid.

Combine 1 beaten egg with 2 tablespoons milk. Gently brush across the top of the braid. Cover and let rise about 10 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Drizzle with Powdered Sugar Glaze (see recipe below).

Pineapple Raisin Filling:

2 20-ounce cans crushed pineapple, drained

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 cup raisins

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and clear. Cool before placing on dough.

Powdered Sugar Glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients until well blended. — Margaret Barrow, Mountain Fuel

CHUNKY CHILI

3 cups dry red beans

6 cups water

1 16-ounce can tomato sauce

1 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup coarsely chopped celery

1 cup coarsely chopped green bell peppers

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 small bay leaf

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

2 pounds lean ground hamburger

Combine beans and water. Soak overnight in a cool area; Cook beans 1 1/2 hours, adding more water as needed to cover the beans. Drain beans. Add remaining ingredients except hamburger. Brown hamburger and add to chili. Cover and simmer at least 1 hour. The longer it cooks, the thicker it becomes and the better it tastes. Serves 8.

Note: Two 15 1/4-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained, may be substituted for the dry beans.

Nutritional information: 499 calories per 2-cup serving. — Linda Gabbler Frost, Mountain Fuel


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com