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Archive for the ‘Casserole’ Category

Just about every day after school in the late 70s, my sisters and I would listen to our records. First we’d have to catch the latest episode of “Days of Our Lives” and do our chores, but then we’d head to the family room to blast our tunes on the stereo. Sometimes it was rock, other times it was soul, depending on if we felt like dancing. Okay, so every day there was soul, with some rock mixed in.

Before we started our music fest, we’d usually walk to the little store up the street to get some crap to eat and drink. Back then, my trusty dollar allowed me to grab a candy bar or Oompa Loompas, plus a tall bottle of Dr. Pepper and (for some reason) a cherry yogurt. Today, I don’t think I could even get a candy bar for a dollar. My younger sisters, Coleen and Melissa, often tried to stretch their money as far as they could by stocking up on penny candy or 10-cent Jolly Rancher Fire and Watermelon Stix.

I remember the first album I ever bought. I was 12, and used birthday money to buy Queen’s A Night at the Opera. I freakin’ loved that album. In fact I still have it. I’d listen to “The Prophet’s Song” on full blast with the head phones on to hear the lyrics and music jump around from ear to ear. And of course I rocked out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” like everyone else — long before Wayne and Garth did.

Many of you probably remember this awesome way to get a ton of records cheap:

Columbia Record Club Advert, 1970s by Joe Wolf is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

You could find this ad in all kinds of magazines. Just one penny (plus shipping and handling) gave you anywhere from 8 to 13 albums. Since you were probably reading the ad while sitting next to your stereo, you could just grab a penny off the turntable – you know, the penny you used to keep your 45’s from skipping. Once you signed up, you just had to buy about seven more records in the future at regular club price, which actually wasn’t that bad. Each month, Columbia House sent you their little music magazine. The problem was remembering to mail back the Selection of the Month card every month – assuming you didn’t want to receive a default album by artists like Starland Vocal Band or Rick Dees.

I remember how exciting it was to scan the ad’s selection and pick all those ‘free” albums. Of course the ad only showed about 150 options, and that included all types of music genres like Easy Listening (pass) and Country (no thanks). You had to wait for the first monthly magazine to arrive to see all the other cool selections available.

Naturally I chose records over 8-tracks. The only people I knew who bought 8-tracks had inherited an old car that actually had an 8-track stereo. Listening to 8-tracks was painful. You’d be singing along and then the song would fade out, making you wait about 10 seconds for it to fade back in on the next track. I believe this is how the phrase “Wait for it … ” originated.

Anyway, when that box arrived from Columbia House, it was like Christmas. I couldn’t decide which record to play first. I loaded up that turntable and my sisters and I had a music fest in the family room that lasted until our parents couldn’t stand it any longer.

Along with Columbia House purchases, I bought records all the time once I started working for the man. I still have some of my original albums, but most fell victim to sleepovers in junior high or parties in high school. Somewhere, somebody is listening to my original 12″ version of “Rapper’s Delight” and trying not to break a hip.

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I think I’ve mentioned I love Friday the 13th. I’ve always loved Friday the 13th. When I was a kid I simply loved Fridays. Which is strange, because that often meant Friday Night Casserole for dinner. But Fridays after school were also the start of the weekend, and when it was a Pay Day Friday we were able to pick up our favorite fast food or go out to dinner. And then we’d sprawl out on the living room floor to watch our favorite prime-time lineup: “The Brady Bunch,” “Nanny and the Professor” and “The Partridge Family”:

So when I combine Friday with 13, I can’t go wrong; 13 has always been my favorite number. I don’t know why. It’s just awesome. And I’ve won my fair share on the roulette wheel betting on 13 Black. It’s also a baker’s dozen, and you can never go wrong with one extra donut, amiright.

Some people freak out and think Friday the 13th is totally unlucky and scary. Probably because of scary movies. One time after the original “Poltergeist” came out, my sisters and I pulled a prank on my Mom, figuring we’d freak her out when she woke up on Friday the 13th. After she went to bed the night before, we placed dining room chairs on top of the kitchen table and scattered a few around the room. And we opened up a bunch of kitchen cabinet doors. We taped this note to the dining room table, and by the reply she left, you can tell we didn’t scare her one bit:

fri-the-13-note

Anyway, I always look forward to Friday the 13th being a lucky day. They don’t happen that frequently. The last Friday the 13th was in May. And that was the exact day Jay and I received a letter in the mail letting us know we were chosen to be “Wheel of Fortune” contestants. True story; stay tuned.

So don’t sit home like a scaredy-cat on Friday the 13th. Get out there. Go buy a lottery ticket. Ask that special someone out on a date. Send in an audition tape to “Wheel of Fortune.” The next Friday the 13th isn’t until October, so today’s your only chance for another 10 months. Well, if you’re Irish, you have St. Patrick’s Day coming up. You know, luck of the Irish and all that. Plus all the alcohol. So essentially you have another lucky day in just two months.

Of course, if you’re planning a camping trip this weekend at a place called “Camp Crystal Lake” you might want to change your plans.

 

 

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I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight but the fridge and cupboards are pretty bare. It’s looking like breakfast for dinner. At the same time, the blog is pretty neglected, so I thought I might find some inspiration in the kitchen to write about. Nope. Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write about, I look through the wonderful “ABC of Casseroles” cook book to see which recipe I can make fun of.  I found this:

recipe

But to be fair, a lot of people would probably like that rice and beef concoction. Not me, but a lot of people. I can definitely make fun of the casserole’s name though: “Quickie Jumble” Casserole. So … many … jokes. I could mock that ridiculous poem, too, that points out how probably every person waiting to eat one of the dishes inspired by this cookbook will definitely be starving because they’re not gonna eat it.

So I started going through some old papers and found a handwritten recipe of my Mom’s. I thought, Hmm? Seven Seas Casserole? That sounds fun, and a little exotic. Maybe this was some fancy South Pacific-inspired shrimp or lobster bake thing I never knew about that Mary Ann had up her sleeve.

I should’ve known better:

seven-seas-1

seven-seas-2

This could be the Tuna Casserole that Julie always made on “Welcome Back Kotter.” Apparently it’s some fancy recipe from Minute Rice.

I actually remember eating Mom’s Tuna Casserole once. I just never knew there was a fancy name for it; probably to make people wanna try it. My sister, Tracy, always remembered Mom’s Tuna Casserole, and always suggests I write about it, but I never knew a recipe existed. She probably would love it if I actually made this thing, just for old time’s sake. I actually have all of these ingredients on hand. Yeah … I’m still making breakfast for dinner.

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Okay, that title is just to get your attention. My Grandpa didn’t really make something called Pickle Soup. But I really did eat soup at my grandparent’s house once, and there were pickles in it.

My sisters and I loved visiting my Grandma and Grandpa when I was kid. B.K., as we affectionately called Grandpa, would always want to show us something like the latest project he was working on in his wood shop, and we’d follow along patiently, knowing he’d eventually lead us to his office to give us each a piece of candy. Our cousins lived right down the street, and all of my sisters and cousins would take turns rolling down the small hill in Grandma and Grandpa’s front yard until we’d run in the house itching like crazy from the grass. Grandma would give us each half an aspirin she crushed into a spoon of sugar water while saying “I told you so,” and then we’d sprawl out right in front of B.K.’s living room chair to watch TV. He had a bunch of little human remotes to change the channel, so he didn’t mind. He’d usually watch something like pro wrestling until we begged him to watch something else. Unless Moondog Mayne was wrestling that day – we loved to watch that crazy bastard eat broken glass and goldfish and what-not.

Whenever we’d spend the night, B.K. would tolerate our sleeping bag fort blocking his view to the TV set in the morning. He’d take us out to the orange tree in the backyard so we could pick fresh oranges to make juice for breakfast, which he’d squeeze himself. Grandma would make fried eggs, potatoes and bacon, or, sometimes … mush.

 

 

Grandma did all the cooking at the Coen homestead. For dinner, this usually consisted of elbow macaroni and red sauce, or cube steak, or … well, I actually can’t remember anything else. But whatever she made was awesome, because we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and all the cousins were there and everything was right with the world. Plus, that meant I didn’t have to eat Friday Night Casserole at my house.

Grandma also made the best iced tea on the planet. I’ve never been able to recreate it, or find any place that serves iced tea that comes close to hers. She brewed it on the stove, added plenty of sugar, and then served it in a fancy porcelain pitcher. My cousin Lori said she thinks the tea tasted so good because she would drink it while sitting happily on Grandpa’s lap. I can’t imagine it tasting better than it did, because it was already perfection. But, drinking it while sitting on B.K.’s lap would’ve been heaven. I’m fairly certain I never sat still long enough for that, cuz I’d usually consume about four glasses of tea and then run around the yard in a caffeine-fueled frenzy.

Though Grandma was the cook, I remember B.K. making soup once. His version of soup was very similar to Mary Ann’s idea for Friday Night Casserole. Just grab a pot, add water and toss in all kinds of stuff from the fridge. Actually, B.K.’s soup was actually pretty decent; the time I watched him make it, he used vegetables and hamburger. And he really did throw in a few dill pickles.

B.K. loved to save money in every way possible. He’d drive 10 miles out of his way to save a penny per gallon on gasoline. He rolled his own smokes. He told us stories of how he made his own beer in the bathtub – even after Prohibition ended. My Dad said B.K. glued tire tread on the bottom of Dad’s shoes when the soles were thin, instead of buying new shoes. I can remember B.K. telling us kids stories of how much things cost when he was younger. He said you could get a big bag full of groceries for $4.00. He also told us the story several times about the most economical meal at his favorite diner. B.K. would count off on his fingers everything that came on that plate … “a burger, with cheese, all the fixings, plus chips, and a pickle – all for two bits.” Two bits is old-timer fancy talk for a quarter. B.K. was resourceful and loved saving money. I guess living through the Depression will do that to you. My Dad used to always tell him, “You better spend all that money, or we’ll have to spend it when you’re gone.” I say the same thing to my Dad now. He doesn’t listen; which, I guess is fair, since I never did.

Hey, I just searched “Pickle Soup” on google and it actually exists:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dill-pickle-soup-recipe.html

Holy crap, I hope Jay doesn’t read this post tonight.

 

 

 

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I was about nine years old when Don McLean’s agonizingly lengthy song “American Pie” came out. It was a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper – popular musicians from before my time who died in a plane crash on Feb 3, 1959. I remember that song would start playing on the car radio on the way to the grocery store, and would still be playing when we got back into the car after filling a whole shopping cart and waiting in line behind three other people. I never knew what “the day the music died” meant until I was older. And this week, coincidentally 57 years to the day when those three iconic artists perished, is when my music died.

Everyone who knows me thinks Billy Squier is my number one, my main man, my all-time favorite musician. Well, he’s certainly up there in the top two. I didn’t leave my hand unwashed for three years after he grabbed it because I think he’s just so-so. He’s the Bill-Man, after all. But there was someone before him. And his name was Maurice White.

I just read that Maurice passed away. It’s funny that we don’t know our favorite artists personally, but they become such a big part of our life that when we lose them, it’s like losing a good friend. I think most people from my generation will agree that Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the best bands ever. I own almost every album they ever made. And if you’re a true EWF fan, you know that it’s not their popular hit songs that are the best, but it’s all those others on their albums that never got radio play. Maurice could write and sing some seriously uplifting, mystical, spiritual, bad-ass lyrics. And who can sit still when “Shining Star” or “Let’s Groove” comes on the radio? I must’ve listened to those albums thousands and thousands of times. I played them every day through junior high and high school. We danced to their music every day after school in the family room and memorized the lyrics wearing those big ‘ol headphones on our ears. I think it’s safe to say I grew up on EWF.

 

Earth, Wind & Fire - Positivity On Demand

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/gjhall/14034306459/”>VibeRide</a&gt; via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-ND</a>

I think it was in 1981 when I went with friends to see EWF for the first time. It was bittersweet. See, although Maurice and the rest of my favorite group was right there on stage 20 feet away from me, I couldn’t see them because some guy with the WORLD’S BIGGEST AFRO was standing right in front of me the whole time. I’m not kidding, that thing was like a tiny planet. Plus, I had to pee worse than I ever had to pee in my entire life. And there was no getting out of that crowd I was smashed into to try to find a bathroom. Have you ever had to pee so bad that after an hour or so, the feeling goes away? Well, that actually happened. Either that or my bladder fell out and I didn’t notice. To add insult to injury, the guy who asked me to be his date that night flirted with my friend throughout the entire evening. But still, I could hear EWF, and caught glimpses of Maurice every now and then when the afro guy bopped his head to the side. And it was freakin’ awesome.

I saw them again about 10 years ago, and it was just as awesome. Even when I listen to them now, I feel like I’m 16 again. I can close my eyes and I’m right back in my old family room, at the dance, at a party or cruising the “J” in a friend’s car. Luckily, the music doesn’t really die. Maurice and all the others who have left this place have graciously left their music behind.

But, Billy Squier, if you’re reading this, don’t EVER die. I’m not having it.

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Making its annual appearance on this award-winning* blog — which debuted five years ago today — I give you, the infamous post, Mary Ann’s 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.

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).

* Award for Most Inconsistent Blog Posts in the History of Blogging

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People are losing their minds over Star Wars. They can’t wait to see the latest installment in the Star Wars saga up on the big screen. They’ve been lining up at theaters all across the country, even camping out on sidewalks. I guess this happens every time a new sequel, or prequel, comes out. Every other post on my Facebook feed is about Star Wars light saber tattoos, Chewbacca shoes, Star Wars-branded bags of apples. Of course … branded apple bags. Because that makes sense.

The Force Awakens. Well, it’s definitely awakened. Maybe it’s because the big guns are back. Maybe it’s because we all know the effects will be even more awesome than before. Maybe it’s just because it’s Star Wars.

Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that I was losing my mind over Star Wars. The original Star Wars. The one called just “Star Wars.” Well, it was officially Star Wars: A New Hope, but everyone just called it “Star Wars.” But it actually wasn’t until after I saw Star Wars that I lost my mind. I don’t think anybody back in 1977 expected the phenomenon we were going to experience. It just sounded like a cool sci-fi flick to go see on the weekend.

I was 13 when the original Star Wars came out. It was playing at the Uptown Theater in Napa, and me and my BFF, Teresa, went to see it. We had no idea what we were in for. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with that dreamy, blue-eyed space farmboy who would soon be plastered all over the pages of my Tiger Beat magazines. Teresa fell in love with Han Solo. Good … more Luke Skywalker for me. But it wasn’t just a cute Jedi-wannabe that was exciting. It was the whole thing. That film had everything: adventure, romance, mystery, action, comedy, and of course, sci-fi. Not to mention the best music score. We couldn’t get enough of it. It was like crack. I don’t remember how many times I went back to the theater – with hard-earned babysitting money – to experience it all over again. One time I went to see it with my cousin, Shelly, and her mom had to come into the theater (after waiting who knows how long to pick us up outside), find us in the dark, and drag us out after we tried to stay through a second showing. Luckily movie tickets weren’t 500 dollars back then, so we just kept going back.

Star Wars was the shizit in the late ’70s. I remember my 8th grade yearbook had Star Wars art all over the cover. And this is an actual old-school trading card from one of my own fancy junior high scrapbooks:

 

Luke Skywlker

 

Star Wars stuff ended up on t-shirts, lunch boxes, posters and everything else you could imagine. And Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were cooler than the Fonz. Of course, all the guys were gaga over Princess Leia, but not as much as when she showed up in that fancy gold bikini six years later in Return of the Jedi.

I never thought I’d someday work for Industrial Light + Magic (thank you Lori!) and witness first-hand how the artists created the special effects for all the Star Wars films, including those in production when I worked there: the Re-Release films and The Phantom Menace. Walking through the halls of ILM was insane. Every once in awhile, one of the model shop guys would cruise around with R2D2. There was a life-size Darth Vader in the lobby, and I have to admit, I always held my breath when I passed him. When I first started working there, part of my job was to review all the resumes that came in. Which were a LOT. If I had a dime for every cover letter that began with, “When I saw Star Wars as a kid, it changed my life,” I’d be richer than George.

Okay, so I’m curious about The Force Awakens, and a tiny bit excited to go see it. I’m sure a lot of you are going to go check out the premiere tonight. Maybe some of you had the chance to see it last night. My sweet friend, Liz, and her awesome hubby, Doug, attended the World Premiere on Monday in Hollywood, since he’s Lucasfilm’s Head of Art Design. I can only imagine how many people were bugging them for details after they saw it. But no one can leak that precious info. Otherwise, this happens:

 

 

 

Darth Vader

May the force be with you.

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