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Archive for April, 2011

When I was a little Camp Fire Girl in Napa, my group had a special craft project each year that we’d sell at the big Camp Fire Christmas Craft Fair where all the little Camp Fire Girls and Blue Birds (that’s a younger Camp Fire Girl in case you didn’t know) would sell their crocheted wonders and hand-painted paper maché pieces of crap to innocent Bay Area holiday shoppers. And we’d each bring our own money to buy fancy gifts for our families like knitted dish soap dresses or reindeer ornaments made out of toilet paper rolls and used Christmas light bulbs.

One year we made Beer Can Hats. You heard me. These were crafted from pieces of beer cans: holes were punched into them and the pieces were then knitted together into fancy hats. No, this isn’t a joke. Though most of these stylish accessories were probably thrown in the trash by New Years, you might still catch a glimpse of one on “My Big Redneck Wedding.”

Our Camp Fire Group Leader, Sue, set out skeins of red and blue yarn to match ever so nicely with the Americana beer cans of the ‘70s. She’d cut out the pieces from the beer cans, because really, who wants to see a little Camp Fire girl running around with a pair of scissors in one hand and a beer can in the other? She’d punch holes in the beer can pieces and we would “sew” them together with colorful yarn … ouila! Move over Coco Chanel!! I think I actually only put one hat together, while the other girls each made about six. Gimme a break, I was very detailed in my craft. But I contributed my fair share — all the beer cans probably came from my house.

So each holiday season, all six of us Camp Fire Girls would pile into the lucky chaperone’s station wagon and head down to San Jose for the annual Craft Fair. It actually was pretty cool as far as your fourth grade fun goes; tons of crazy Camp Fire girls, lots of tables and crafts decorated in red and green, and Christmas carols piped in from a turntable playing a scratchy record somewhere. I remember walking into the big expo building and smelling that heavenly aroma … the enchiladas. Some groups made food, and one of the groups made chicken and cheese enchiladas every year. They were glorious. On my lunch break from working our busy Camp Fire Crap table, I would follow my nose to the enchiladas. I would savor every bite in that little foil container and burn the experience into my memory so I could recall it during Friday Night Casserole night. Muchas gracias Senoritas.

What? You’re still here? Why, you’re waiting for the famous Craft Fair Enchilada recipe? Sorry, I don’t have it. Hmmm, I guess I can give you my Lazy Ladi recipe (Enchilada Casserole). I figure what’s the point of rolling the tortillas for enchiladas … sure, I know that’s how you do it DAVE. But let’s face it … it all goes on your plate, you start chewing it and it all goes to the same place. These are delicious no matter how you make them, so just make it easy on yourself. And just be glad I didn’t post another of Mary Ann’s or Jay’s fancy dishes.

Ingredients:

1 package of flour tortillas-at least 6
1 pound of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 small white onion, diced
1/2 pound cooked ground beef or turkey or no meat at all. That’s right, I said it; you can live without it. Be crazy and substitute 2 cups of sliced mushrooms instead like I do
1 large can of Rosarita enchilada sauce, or make your own. Sorry, that recipe is highly classified.

Directions:

Okay, lightly oil the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish and just start throwing stuff in. I recommend starting with some of the sauce and then just layer everything else. Pour sauce here and there and everywhere. Don’t roll stuff up in the tortillas, just tear the tortillas up into pieces and layer them in like you were putting together a lasagna. Don’t be such a snob, no one will be able to tell once it’s all cooked and melted in together with the cheesy deliciousness.

Bake at 350 degrees for as long as “Wheel of Fortune” is on.

Let the dish rest for about 10 minutes, then serve with some avocado and diced tomatoes. Oh, and the most important thing: zest a lime or two and sprinkle the zest into some sour cream.  Mix that up and top off your enchiladas with it. You’re welcome.

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Hope you all enjoy this new post. If you do, I’ll post more like it…if my stomach can handle it, that is.

My wonderful fiancé Jay has a healthy appetite. Well, I don’t know if it’s exactly healthy, it’s just enormous. Everyone who knows Jay guards their plate when he’s at the table until they’re done…if there’s anything left they’ll offer it to him, if he hasn’t already helped himself. On our first date we went to a Thai Restaurant. I ordered my fave, Pad Thai, and halfway through the meal, Jay helped himself to a few bites from my plate. I looked at him, somewhat surprised, and he said to me, “Get used to it.” I have.

Jay loves food and eats just about everything. In fact, when I asked him to proof my “Friday Night Casserole” post, he said, “Hmmm, that sounds good—I would’ve liked your Mom’s cooking.” Maybe he has a mild brain disorder.

There are only a few things in the world Jay won’t eat: seafood and liver. I can understand the liver, but seafood? C’mon, crab legs? Shrimp? Lobster? It must stem from his childhood. His cute little Japanese mom would serve up whole fish with the eyeballs, gills and everything, so I guess he has an excuse. (If my Mom would’ve served up a cow head complete with the eyeballs and their little eyelashes, I guess I would gag over steak.) Jay will watch Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain eat animal testicles from every corner of the earth, but he can’t handle the seafood. Oh well, more for me.

After dinner every evening, Jay will plop on the couch with an arsenal of goodies…any combination of M&M’s, peanuts, a box of sugar cereal, an orange or apple, popcorn and any other pastry/candy/nut he can carry. Some nights he gets pretty creative as he tries to make do with the treats he can find. He’ll do the same with leftovers and random ingredients on nights we don’t make dinner. I’m always astonished (and usually disgusted) by most of these concoctions. I’ve learned to take pictures of these creations, and I’ve decided to post them here for your amusement.

Jay’s Fancy Leftover Dinner Creation #1

For this dish, Jay started with a foundation of two pieces of wheat bread. He then poured on some pork and beans, and plopped on some spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes. Next he added a leftover barbequed hot dog (sliced nicely in half lengthwise) and paired it with some leftover macaroni salad. The finishing touch…a few splashes of Tapatio. The only thing appealing about this photo is the plate he chose to use for this concoction–it’s from a set that belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa Coen, and I’m pretty sure this is the still the weirdest thing this plate has ever seen.

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(Translation: Soggy Zucchini)

My Grandma Smothers was famous for making this delicacy which she sometimes paired with Chicken Cacciatore—a fancy little dish you learned about a few weeks ago.

The secret to Calabacitas was to cook the crap out of the zucchini until it turned to mush. I wasn’t a huge fan of Grandma Smother’s dinners, but man could she bake. I wish I could share her Molasses Cookies recipe with you, but then I’d have to kill you. That secret recipe doesn’t leave the family, but if you’re lucky, I might make them for you at Christmastime and you will tell me that there is no way I actually created these scrumptious, amazingly perfect round gems.

When we were kids, Grandma would make a boat-load of Molasses Cookies for all the grandkids. We all looked frantically under the Christmas tree for our very own Folgers coffee can containing our ration. And don’t even get me started on her Apple Crisp. However, her dinners were another thing.

At Grandma and Grandpa’s place in Oroville it was so hot in the summertime, you were happy to go indoors to eat dinner–whatever it was. Their mobile home park had a pool, but we usually stayed in the screened-in porch playing exciting games like “Sit on the Stairs.” There were bees outside which would send us flailing and screaming back into the shelter of the screened-in porch and its safe Astroturf floor covering. Inside, their mobile home was so narrow I could practically reach both arms out and touch either side of the kitchen at eight years old. I still remember sitting at their tiny dining room table watching my sweet but stern Grandma work that stove. I also remember sitting at that table and sticking a house key in the electrical outlet for the first and last time in my life.

Grandma Smothers was full-blooded German and usually cooked dishes with sauerkraut or cabbage or some other colorless thing in them. And that’s what her refrigerator always smelled like…cold, leftover cabbage. But she indulged in this fancy Mexican recipe when entertaining the family, and then my Mom in turn made it. And I in turn never make it.

Ingredients:

6 large zucchini, or that one insanely overgrown zucchini that has taken over your garden
¼ cup of minced onion (or, you can cut up a real onion to make it fancy)
1 clove of garlic
3 small cans of tomato sauce
3 thick slices of Velveeta Cheese
4 strips of bacon
1 red bell pepper

Directions:

Fry bacon until almost crispy. While the bacon is frying, chop the zucchini, garlic and bell pepper (and the onion if of the fancy variety). Set the bacon aside; slap kids’ hands when they try to grab a piece. In a large skillet, cook the zucchini, onion, bell pepper and garlic in the leftover bacon grease for about 15 minutes. Add tomato sauce and bacon strips. Simmer on low for about one hour, or, what the hell, all day. About five minutes before serving, remove the bacon. No, I don’t know why. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve with straws.

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You’ve all “enjoyed” a handful of recipes and explanations of vomit-inducing dishes, so I guess it’s time to lay down the law. I don’t know what dinner was like at your house, but if you grew up in the ’70s you probably can relate to at least a few of these rules.

Every family member had their place at the dinner table. If a set of Grandparents came to visit, the two youngest kids were demoted to the tiny kid’s table in the corner. It was oompa loompa-sized and fit Coleen and Melissa—and sometimes me, too, if an extra friend or relative showed up.

We could take a pass on some of these rules if guests showed up, but otherwise we had to mind our manners. We learned early not to yell, sing, fidget or anything else at the table, because for crying out loud that would drown out the TV set and Dad would need to calm his nerves by pouring more Heinz ketchup on his plate. Of course, I’m exaggerating (not really) because sometimes even Dad would sing at the table. He won’t admit it, but he has a groovy Lou Rawls-type of voice and was actually offered a singing contract in his younger days. However, you’ll have to attend one of our family reunions or weddings where the Oly is flowing freely to experience that songbird.

So every night at about 5:30 we had to fall in line and sit down, shut up and eat—even if it was Friday Night Casserole. And while sitting down to dinner at our house, we had to abide by the following rules:

1. You must eat at least one tablespoon of the vegetable. If you don’t like it that’s fine, but Mom says you HAVE to try it. Of course, your younger sister (reference: Coleen), will be able to take a pass on creamed corn.

2. Do NOT laugh when your older sister (reference: Tracy) spills her milk. (Occurrence rate: once per week.)

3. If eating soup, be careful of your homemade towel bib!! No sudden moves!! Mom has tied it behind your neck and placed it under the soup bowl to take care of any excess spillage!

4. One more thing about soup: If you feel sick and throw up into your soup bowl (reference: Lisa) it’s a Catch 22. Mom will be proud of you for containing the mess, but Dad will be so disgusted he won’t be able to stomach another bite until his Jello 1-2-3 dessert later in the evening.

5. Do NOT mention blood or guts at the dinner table (see rule #4).

6. Tell Mom the food is delicious. Or at least say it’s not bad. She has slaved over a hot stove all day you know, and she deserves some appreciation. If the food sucks, tell her the blouse she is wearing is especially groovy.

7. Finish your plate. There are starving children in China you know (at least, that’s what they told us in the ‘70s). If you leave anything, be prepared to see that leftover plate of food the next day at breakfast. And don’t even THINK about asking for instant chocolate pudding later in the evening.

8. Do not monopolize the dinner conversation, and make sure you are not boring your Dad. He will be especially irritated if two or more people are talking at the same time, hence drowning out the sound of “Star Trek” coming from the living room television set. You will know all the banter has gotten out of hand if your baby sister (reference: Melissa) has set her plate on the floor for the dog and is resting her head on the edge of the table reciting, “My head’s cut off, my head’s cut off.”

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There were two kinds of Fridays in our house: Pay Day Friday and Casserole Friday. We loved Payday Friday. Dad would come home from his job at Mare Island with a wad of bills. Sometimes he’d let us hold them. Then everyone would hop into the wood-paneled Ford station wagon and head for A&W, or the family restaurant Palby’s, for a big night out. Ahhh, A&W … sitting in the station wagon parked next to the scratchy-sounding order sign machine thing. My family ordered burgers and root beer — in those fancy frosty mugs of course — however, I always ordered a fish sandwich and grape soda. And yes, they all made fun of me. Except for Coleen, who also preferred the fish sandwich. And she believed you weren’t allowed to have a burger until you were an adult. She finally had her first Big Mac at the ripe old age of 10. Tracy had to wait till she was 11.

Now for Palby’s: if you never lived in Vallejo or visited the bustling Solano County metropolis with its abundance of 1970’ish restaurants, you might’ve missed Palby’s. Sucks for you because Palby’s was awesome. Palby’s was on Highway 80 between Vallejo and Napa in the area that’s now known as American Canyon. Palby’s was like a freaky dinner theater for kids. Look out the window and there were peacocks. There were seals. But we didn’t eat them. I preferred the deep-fried shrimp myself. I recall my little sister Pooh always ordered the ribs and proceeded to happily get the sauce all over her face. Thinking back, Palby’s seemed like a Winchester Mystery House to kids, because there were all these different areas with trippy things to see. Or maybe there was just the lobby and the main dining room and I had an over-active imagination.

Sometimes on Payday Friday, Dad and one or two of us kids would just pop over to Munchie’s on Sonoma Boulevard for 10 cent hamburgers. Munchie’s was a burger joint in a cool round building that sold cheap hamburgers and fries and I just liked saying “Munchies.” Sometimes we’d just grab 300 tacos from Taco Bell, when all they really had was tacos.

But, if it wasn’t a Payday Friday, and you didn’t make plans to get in trouble and stay after school — or better yet, offer to babysit for the neighbor’s heathen kids — you were going to experience Mary Ann’s Friday Night Casserole. God have mercy on your soul.

Ingredients:

No rules apply!!!

Check the cupboards for stray cans of stewed tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, deviled ham or anything else that resembles vomit. Next, go to the fridge and grab any and every leftover you can find saved in old margarine and Cool Whip tubs — these are important casserole ingredients.

Leftover examples:

Pork ‘n Beans
Kentucky Fried Chicken Cole Slaw
Canned Spinach
Taco Meat
Chopped-up Fish Sticks
Creamed Chip Beef Sauce
The last slice of Olive Loaf luncheon meat that will never be eaten
Macaroni and Cheese
Spam
White Rice
Filling for Stuffed Bell Peppers
Bread Heels
Chicken Pot Pie
Deviled Eggs
Creamed Corn

Directions:

Throw all of the ingredients you found into a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Feel free to add canned tomato sauce or a packet of onion soup mix to make it fancy.

Bake at 350 degrees. I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to do this. Just hang around the oven to make sure nothing explodes.

Serve to your happy family. Well, they were happy before dinner. Now they hate your guts and are secretly flipping you off below the table. A few of them might be dry heaving into their towel bibs. You will definitely want to plan a huge dessert for later in the evening (maybe a nice Jello Mold).

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