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Archive for the ‘Casserole’ Category

Our first TV set I remember as a kid was one of those big brown cabinet boxes on four legs. This one:

That’s me and Tracy sitting in front of it. All those times Mom told us not to sit too close to the TV, and just look at where they propped us. Anyway, I am apparently gorging myself on candy from my Easter basket, along with the candy in both mine and Tracy’s rolling-toy-basket-things, while eyeing the candy in her basket. Hmm. I wonder why my Mom was making Friday Night Casserole on Easter Sunday …

In later years, that TV had rabbit ears on top that one of us kids often had to adjust and hold for my Dad when he was trying to tune in “Hogan’s Heroes” or something. And of course, we had to get up from where we were sitting on the floor to turn the TV on, to switch between the three only channels or to turn it off.

Once we moved to Napa, we got cable which gave us a few more channels. They were mostly local stations from San Francisco or Oakland, and gave us a few more options, but we’d always complain that “there’s nothing on.”

When I was in Junior High, we got HBO, which was awesome, because we could watch actual movies that actually played in the theater recently – or not-so-recently as was often the case. Anyway, to get HBO, you had to attach an A-B switch thing to your TV. You’d have to switch to ‘B’ and put the TV on a certain channel to watch HBO. I remember watching the movie “It’s Alive” about 40 times, because back then it was scary-cool, and plus, it was about the only movie playing on HBO for about three solid months. The A-B switch was also a ‘lock box,’ so if our parents were heading out for the night, they could ‘lock’ the switch so we couldn’t turn the box to ‘B’ and watch R-rated movies on HBO. Or so they thought. Even with that lock thing on, we could push that switch hard enough towards ‘B’ to tune in HBO and catch moments of scary or racy flicks like “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and “The Omen.” Of course, we had to take turns standing by the TV to push that switch towards ‘B’ and hold it in place. But that was okay, we were kinda used to doing a similar task, the one where Dad needed us to keep our hand on the antenna so a local station wouldn’t fade in and out.

Yeah, TV was a lot of work back then. Plus, you couldn’t just grab a remote and scroll through 500 channels to find something to watch. You had to find the TV Guide, flip to the current day and then scan through the listings to find out what to watch. And if you wanted to watch your favorite sitcom, you had to make sure you could dedicate 30 entire minutes to being in front of the TV, at the exact time that show came on. And the thought of watching one of your favorite movies any time you wanted? Well, that was just make-believe.

Before I left for college, video cassettes came out, and holy crap, you could go to an actual store stocked full of all the latest movie releases on tape. Well, some of them. But you had to own your own video player, which back then cost about a million dollars. My Dad, being the tech-gadgety guy, obviously went out and bought one. But he bought a Beta player, which at the time was fancier than standard VHS, and there was a smaller choice of videos to choose from at the store. Like five.

If you didn’t have a video player, you could rent one at the store. In college, I remember going into the big, popular liquor store where you could pick up a six-pack of Coors Light or California Coolers, AND grab a video cassette player and a few movies. So you or one of your roommates had to put down like a hundred-dollar deposit to rent a big, bulky video cassette player, along with all the necessary cables and plugs. Then you hauled it home, hooked it up to the TV and watched your movie. Then the next day you had to unplug that thing and haul it back to the liquor store. Which was no big deal since you had to pick up more alcohol anyway.

These days you can find just about anything on TV to watch. Literally. Anything. But even with hundreds and hundreds of channels available, we still complain that “there’s nothing on.” Well, at least nothing we want to actually watch.

Jay and I finally stuck it to the Man and cancelled our Cable TV. Hundreds of useless channels at hundreds of dollars a month was getting old, and besides, all we ever do is watch our favorite shows that we’ve taped or binge-watch Netflix. So we switched to Hulu Live TV since it’s one of the few choices for our area that includes both ABC (gotta practice “Wheel of Fortune”) and the Golf Channel (Jay’s best friend) for a decent, low price. We’ll start binging our way through Hulu shows now, too, I imagine, but we’re still working through Netflix.

Last night we were binge-watching “Arrested Development” and the mom, Lucille, did something my Mom used to do; a fancy skill my sisters and I inherited. We’ve never seen anyone else do it. My mom would close her left eyelid completely–usually while laughing, or while saying or hearing something funny–and her right eyelid wouldn’t move. With this superpower, she could just drop her eyelid without affecting the other one. And my sisters and I can all do it. It’s kinda like winking, but when you wink, you have to scrunch your eyelid. And if you try to lower one eyelid, you can’t help but kinda squint the other one. (You just tried it, didn’t you …)  My sisters and I still do it, sometimes when talking about Mom, but usually when we just want to indicate “yeah, whatever.” It’s our secret code. Umm. It was our secret code.

Anyway, I saw Lucille do this last night on TV and I immediately wanted to show my sisters. Back in the day, I would’ve only been able to call them and tell them what I saw on TV … after waiting till after 7:00 pm to save on long-distance charges, and then walking into the kitchen to dial 10 digits into the rotary phone, three separate times, and hoping their lines weren’t busy, and that they were home to answer the phone. Today? I grabbed the remote, rewound the show, paused it on the frame were Lucille was dropping her eyelid, took a picture with my phone, then attached the pic to a group text and hit ‘Send.’

Gotta love modern technology; it helps us accomplish so many important things.

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Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was a kid. I loved it more than Christmas. It was that cool time of year when the leaves would fall from the trees on windy evenings and the breeze still had a hint of warmth. I guess it also had to do with the fact that on Halloween night I could trick-or-treat and get CANDY, CANDY and more CANDY — especially since every other day of the year our parents warned us never to take candy from strangers. I loved dressing up and loved creating my perfect costume. When we were little, my Mom would make Halloween costumes for us. Here’s me and Tracy in the late ’60s:

“Help, I’ve lost my sheep! And my dignity.”

In later years, Mom would sometimes buy us costumes from the store — probably K-Mart, and most likely a Blue Light Special. Little girls in the late ’60s and early ’70s had about two costume choices: nurse or witch. I chose the nurse. There were little candy pills that came in the little plastic nurse’s bag. Hand-me-downs were also a part of Halloween: Coleen and Melissa would be wearing those Little Bo Peep costumes a few years later.

Once I became a lot older (at least 9 or 10), I would pride myself in making my own costume. I wasn’t your typical girly-girl who wanted to be a Princess or Fairy or Bride for Halloween. I was immensely proud of a Bum costume I designed once. I used a pair of my Dad’s old pants, an old shirt and tie, and a sailor’s hat. Hmm. Apparently I was a bum from some ’40s Hollywood movie. I rubbed used coffee grounds all over my face to resemble a five-o’clock shadow. “Brother, can you spare a dime? Or a Snickers?”

When I was in elementary school, there was a super dry spell in Halloween festivities for children in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a crazy serial killer named the Zodiac on the loose. During those Zodiac Years, no trick-or-treating was allowed in Vallejo. I hated the Zodiac. I was too young to understand what was going on — all I knew was some crazy person had ruined my favorite holiday. Of course if Halloween fell on a Saturday night, we could have our own party around the TV when this Bay Area classic came on:

“Creature Features” was an awesome horror movie show that played on Saturday nights. There was a cool, somewhat weird, host named Bob Wilkins and he would talk about the scary movies they were playing that night. These were usually “B” movies (maybe “C”) that aspired to be as bad as movies like “War of the Gargantuas” or “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” You probably noticed Bob in that opening clip, wearing his Buddy Holly glasses and puffing on a big cigar. In hindsight, I bet that thing was full of weed, because he was just way too mellow. I know you’re gonna click on that again just to hear that awesome, funky ’70s theme song.

Anyway, during the Zodiac Years, all kids were banned from the streets and had to go to school cafeterias or community centers to celebrate Halloween. Trick-or-treating around a cafeteria just isn’t the same once you’ve experienced the real thing outdoors, especially when that nasty corn smell is still lingering in the cafeteria air from lunch time.

We’d parade around the cafeteria in our costumes getting candy and snacks. Oh, and there was bobbing for apples, or as I like to call it, “Hello, Hepatitis!” What were those adults thinking? Hey guys, let’s grab a huge, rusty pail from the backyard scrap pile, fill it with water from the hose and throw some apples in it. Then let’s have the kids dress up like dorks with crazy makeup all over their face, run around the block begging the neighbors for candy in the cold, then drag them and their runny noses over to the big, rusty water pail full of apples and stick their faces in it. Then let’s have them bite at the apples with their candy-corroded teeth long enough so that all their spit mixes together in the water. If one of them actually snags an apple in their teeth, they WIN!! They win an APPLE!!

Even as a kid I knew there was something terribly wrong with bobbing for apples. But there were also other dangers lurking around in Halloween goodies. My Dad made us well aware of the potential razor blade or cherry bomb or “drug injected by needle” that just might be hiding in our mini Three Musketeers bar. When we got home from trick-or treating during the Non-Zodiac Years, we had to line up and pass our bags over to Dad for official inspection. Dad would check for pin holes and the like in our candy wrappers. Many times he would have to taste test our candy to be sure they were safe for us. He had to taste test A LOT of our candy. Well, he didn’t want a cherry bomb to blow our cheek off.

One time I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad’s lecture telling us not to eat candy at night and I snuck lots of candy from my trick-or-treat bag right before bed, and proceeded to eat most of it. That night, I had the dreaded “eating-candy-before-bedtime nightmare.” About werewolves. Dancing werewolves. If you missed that post, click here, or here (I tend to write about those werewolves quite a bit, apparently).

I don’t eat candy before bed any more. And I sleep with a gun loaded with silver bullets.

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Back in the early ‘70s, kids would run home after school to catch their favorite cartoon or other kids’ show coming on TV at 3:00. My favorite was the cartoon “Kimba the White Lion.” He was a cute little cub. I can hardly remember what that cartoon was about, but I remember the theme song:

 

 

As the seasons went by, my favorite changed to “The Banana Splits”– a groovy, goofy Hanna-Barbera gem with an addicting theme song (“Tra la la, la la la la”). The Banana Splits were four surreal animals (dudes in costumes) that did crazy antics, skits and songs, and they’d play short episodes of different cartoons or live-action shows every day.  They featured “Arabian Knights,” “The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and my favorite, “Danger Island,” a crazy cliffhanger about explorers on a tropical island tormented by pirates and natives. (“Uh-oh, Chongo!”) It was awesome … if you were 11.

 

 

Once I hit 13, my afternoon favorite changed to “The Mike Douglas Show” where I’d hope to catch dreamy guest stars like Shaun Cassidy or Andy Gibb. If the TV Guide said one of these ‘70s teen idols would be on a certain day, that afternoon at school after the last bell rang you’d see flocks of junior high school girls fleeing the school grounds like their Dittos were on fire.

There was another afternoon show that always had a pay-off, for someone. It was “Dialing for Dollars.” In the San Francisco Bay Area, Pat McCormick hosted the show, which featured an afternoon movie and offered viewers the chance at a cash prize. Pat was a Bay Area icon. He also hosted the “Charley and Humphrey Show,” another hit with the local kids.

 

 

On Dialing for Dollars, there were several intermissions throughout the movie when Pat would call some lucky Bay Area viewer who could win the jackpot … IF they were watching and knew the infamous Count and Amount. The Count was a number code like “2 From the Top” or “7 From the Bottom,” and the Amount was the jackpot – usually somewhere between $100 and $300 dollars. Big bucks, people. Sometimes my sisters and I would sit through the dumbest movies on the planet waiting for Pat to call our house. He never did. But he did call my Grandma Smothers once. She wasn’t watching the TV, because she was probably making Calabasitas, so she didn’t know the Count and the Amount. But they sent her a gift certificate for Chicken Delight in the mail as a consolation prize. Which was actually pretty cool. Chicken Delight was quite the rage when I was a kid.

I remember one night when my Dad was working swing shift at Mare Island, Mom ordered Chicken Delight for us. It must’ve been a PayDay Friday. Chicken Delight was about the only place that actually delivered food to your door back then. Mom laid a blanket out on the living room floor so we could have an indoor picnic with our Chicken Delight delicacies. I remember chicken, but not much else. I imagine there was cole slaw or french fries or rolls, but whatever there was, it wasn’t Friday Night Casserole, so it was delicious.

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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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