When home cooking wasn’t frozen in a box

Murray shares some “instant meals” for families from the 40s and 50s that don’t come from a box

Chili con carne

Now we are going back in time to the 1940s, before the days of questionable, pre-cooked contents in a box. The meal of the day was chili con carne. We had a big family, so cut this one down accordingly. Try it once and you’ll be hooked.


2 Tbsp of salad oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green peppers
1 clove
1 pound ground beef
1 can tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 ½ tsp chili powder.
1 cup chopped white onions.


Heat salad oil. Add onions, green pepper and garlic. Sauté slowly until slightly brown. Remove garlic. Add ground beef, tomatoes, kidney beans, salt and chili powder. Cover and simmer over low heat for about one hour. Serves 8.

Corned beef in a blanket

If you like corned beef, you’ll enjoy this one. If you have never tried it, throw away that protective blanket and sit down to a real tasty meal. It’s a fast one for supper if you have to eat and rush off to a meeting. (or go fishing.)


Can corned beef
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp condiment sauce such as chili or steak sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 cups mashed potatoes
Corn flakes


Turn the contents of a can of corned beef from its container, unbroken.Place on a greased baking pan. Make a sauce of brown sugar, condiment sauce and dry mustard. Spread over beef. Cover with 2 cups fluffy mashed potatoes. Brown in oven at 400 F for about an hour. Crumbled Corn flakes may be sprinkled over the potatoes for a crusty surface.

Mulligan stew

You might say this is the cousin to shepherd’s pie.


1 ½ cups rice
1 pound ground beef
2 white onions, diced
1 can tomato soup
Bread crumbs


Cook rice until tender. Cook beef and onions together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Alternate layers of rice and meat in casserole dish. Pour over one can of tomato soup. Sprinkle dried bread crumbs on top. Bake 30 minutes at 400 F.

Beef and kidney pie

This one is not quite as old as I am, but I remember in the late 1930s, sitting down at the supper table and enjoying this fine-tasting beef and kidney pie.


2 pounds beef steak
1 kidney, cut in 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 cups flour
¾ cups finely chopped suet
1 cup baking powder
½ cup water


Mix to a thick paste with water. Roll out. Line a pudding bowl, leaving enough dough for the top. Fill bowl with beef and kidney. Season with salt and pepper. Fill with water until the liquid is an inch from the top of the bowl. Top with remaining dough, rolled out. Steam for two hours.

Hamburger and macaroni

Here is an easy, tasty supper. There was no date on this one, but I do remember it from the mid-1940s. Last Thursday, we sat down to this exact recipe.


1 chopped white onion
1 can mushroom soup
1 19 oz. can tomatoes
1 pound ground beef
2 ½ cups cooked macaroni


Brown onions in frying pan and add beef. Fry until cooked. Add tomatoes, soup and cooked macaroni. Cook until all is well-heated. Salt and pepper to taste. We have often substituted fried brown mushrooms for the canned soup.

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