Archive for May, 2011

Well, I thought it might be a good time to remember one of our “favorite” dishes from Friday Night Casserole. Yes, THE Friday Night Casserole. In case you missed it the first time around, enjoy. And if you’ve already seen this one, hey, enjoy it again. I do actually have some new material for you. If you look above, you’ll see a tab for a new page I’ve created — FAQ & Glossary. It’s a work in progress. But there’s a little something there for your entertainment, and to explain some of the crazy/strange/ridiculous Coen terms and sayings you may have experienced on this blog. And if you’re a Coen, or an honorary Coen, you just might remember saying or hearing a few of these cool phrases yourself.

Friday Night Casserole

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.


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
White Rice
Filling for Stuffed Bell Peppers
Bread heels
Chicken Pot Pie
Deviled eggs
Creamed corn


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 (stay tuned for “Jello Mold” and “Mayonnaise Cake”).


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Jay and I went on vacation to Hawaii last fall and I couldn’t help but notice the white rice on every breakfast menu while I desperately scanned the options looking for potatoes, hash browns or any type of spuds. Nothing. Mahalo a lot, Hawaii. Jay was thrilled because he loves rice. When he was a little kid his sweet little full-blooded Japanese mother would serve him a bowl of rice, splash some soy sauce on it and then crack an egg over the top. No, the rice wasn’t hot enough to cook the egg, it just oozed its raw egg self all over the rice. He said he liked it. I threw up in my mouth a smidge. It sounds so nasty he may have to write his own childhood food blog.

Anyway, rice everywhere in Hawaii. That’s fine, when in Rome, eat white rice—and Spam. Jay was in heaven with the Spam, pulled pork, short ribs, rice, noodles and of course, the beach. Growing up in San Diego, he loves the beach and lived at Mission Beach as a bona fide surf dude in the ‘80s. On our Waikiki vacation he body-surfed Waimea Bay and Sandy Beach. I body-surfed the tide pools and ended up with a pancake-sized bruise on my ass. But hey! I remembered something as I came to in the tide pool—I do like white rice for breakfast! How could I have forgotten?! In fact as a kid, I ate it every chance I got after a night of Chinese take-out. You know when you order Chinese food you can pretty much rest assured that there will be no leftover pork-fried rice to stink up the fridge; however, you can almost always count on leftover white rice. As a child, that was a good thing for me. I didn’t really care to eat it for dinner, as you may recall from “Gourmet Top Ramen.” My experience with Chinese food was the soggy, fatty sweet and sour pork my family loved. I would probably offer to babysit the heathen neighbor children on Chinese take-out night. But finding the leftover white rice in the fridge the next morning was a joyous occasion.

I don’t know where the idea to eat rice for breakfast originated back then. I was only about 8, so I’m fairly certain I never jet-setted to Hawaii on summer vacation. I imagine I was inspired after seeing my Grandpa Smothers eat white bread in a bowl of milk. But that’s just wrong. That’s like a nasty flour milkshake if you ask me. But my rice delicacy was heavenly. I’d put leftover rice in a pot with some milk on the stove (What’s that? Microwave?! We didn’t have no stinking microwave in the ’70s). When half of the rice was cooked and the other half had burned to the bottom of the pot, I’d scoop out the part that was still white into a big cereal bowl. Then I’d pour cinnamon, sugar and milk all over it. Yum. Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and who cares what my sisters say, they don’t know about white rice–though they made fun of me for eating it. Perhaps that’s due to the Milk Container incident of ’75.

Yeah, we didn’t have no stinking garbage disposal back then either. My Mom kept an old milk carton next to the sink where the contents from the sink strainer went to die. I don’t know why, since the garbage can was only five feet away. That milk carton would sit there a week or so, and then get tossed out into the trash. She was quite resourceful. However in the summertime (and no, we didn’t have no stinkin’ central air conditioning either) that milk container would ripen quickly. One time I had dish duty and was emptying the sink strainer contents into that container. That milk carton was so disgusting; it was full of nasty stuff and some rice that was in there got on my hand. At least I thought it was rice until my little sister, Melissa, informed me there were maggots on my hand. I about broke my arm at the elbow flinging it into the sink to get to that running water. Ah…so that’s where the hand-washing comes from. OCD mystery explained.

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When I was a kid, my Grandparents and my Aunt and Uncle bought a cabin just outside of Lake Tahoe. Going to the Coen Cabin was kid heaven … creek walking, funny drunk relatives, Oreo cookies, snow and Poker Night. I’m not just talking about adults playing poker — the apples don’t fall far from the tree, even if the seedlings can only afford to ante up pennies.

Our cousins, the Sax’s, had a cabin in the same subdivision. Usually each set of families would vacation there at the same time. Those were the weekends that Oly increased the poker revenue tri-fold. The Sax’s were so fancy that their outhouse had two seats. Yes, my cousin Shelly and I were not too modest to use that outhouse at the same time.

See, at the cabins you didn’t DARE go to the bathroom in the actual indoor bathroom!! Geez! Even though the Coen bathroom was so big you could fit 14 toilets in it, the only thing we were allowed to do in there was brush our teeth in the sink. It had something to do with the plumbing … so, you had better make damn sure you made a visit to the outhouse before bed, because you sure as hell didn’t want to go out there at night. That meant waking up a cousin or two and BEGGING them to get up, put on another layer of clothes and venture out there with you with a flashlight, and no protection against Bigfoot.

Upstairs at the Coen cabin was one huge room with seven double beds and a double mattress on the floor. That is a LOT of snoring — especially when all those adults had been indulging in Oly all night. We kids were always banned to the upstairs once the serious poker playing started downstairs. Little did they know that we were also playing our own game of poker … for pennies. All of us cousins usually started our gamble-fest in the evening after dinner. We would set up the little plastic record player and listen to 45’s like “I Like Beer” by Tom T. Hall and “My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry over and over and over again. All my sisters and my cousins Kristi, Michelle and Cathy would goof around, pretending we knew how to dance, and my cousins Mike and John would entertain us with their lip syncing … then all of us would take turns jumping on all the beds and doing super flips from one double bed to another, complete with our 4-point landing on the mattress on the floor.

Sometimes we’d play games like Charades with the whole family. There was no TV, so we had to do something. We’d perform our silent renditions of songs like “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight” and the parents would guess it because they were un-cool and actually knew that song. I guess that meant we were un-cool, also. We didn’t use the fancy arm and finger signals like in real Charades … we just flailed around acting out our words.

We’d walk the creeks and go on adventures and discover secretly marked boulders that we were sure had been left behind by visiting aliens. We’d hide from the younger cousins and hope that all the adults would drive into Tahoe to gamble so we could have free run of the cabin under the rule of a cool, older cousin.

While vacationing at the cabin one summer, my Grandpa brought a two-pound can of smoked almonds that my youngest sister, Melissa, discovered. One night she proceeded to eat the majority of the can, and then proceeded to sleep next to me on one of the double beds upstairs. And then proceeded to throw them up all over the fancy new sleeping bag my grandparents bought for me at Christmas. Oh well, I still love her, and I still love smoked almonds. Just not the regurgitated type.

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I highly recommend this dinner choice for a great start to your Mother’s Day weekend. It was always a favorite when I was a kid.

Yahoooo! It’s Friday night and though not a Payday Friday, for some miraculous reason there are no leftovers in the fridge!! After learning that Friday Night Casserole is not the dish of choice for the evening, the kids are doing a celebratory dinner dance to the Jackson Five in the living room. Here’s what you do. Go to the cupboard and grab all the cereal boxes you can find. In the early ‘70s these would consist of two or more of the following:

Cap’n Crunch
Fruit Loops
Frosted Flakes
King Vitamin
Lucky Charms
Apple Jacks
Fruity Pebbles
Rice Crispies
Rice Chex
Wheat Chex
Corn Chex
Year-old plastic bargain bag of hardly-touched Puffed Wheat

Put all the boxes on the kitchen table. (Okay, forget the Puffed Wheat, you can’t fool the kids. Just put it back in the cupboard…it’s a contender for Friday Night Casserole.) If you have the assortment of mini cereal boxes leftover from camping, put those out on the table…..you’ll get extra brownie points from the youngins.

Place some bowls and spoons on the table and holler for the kids. Have a pair of scissors ready in case one of the boxes has a groovy semi-plastic cutout of Bobby Sherman’s 45, “Easy Come, Easy Go” attached to the back.

After they praise you for being the world’s coolest Mom, they will consume enough sugar to keep them hopped up until Saturday morning where you will find them all sprawled out in front of the boob tube watching Sid and Marty Kroft kid shows, interrupted every so often by a Conjunction Junction commercial.

Yikes!! Sleestacks!!

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hookin’ up words, and phrase, and clauses…

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