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When I was a kid, my Mom made some crazy budget meals. I guess they were the result of culinary skills she learned from a few home economic classes in high school circa 1960 (and from whatever her Mom put on the table after tweaking Betty Crocker recipes). Mary Ann (Mom) was the Penny-Pinching, Coupon-Cutting, Bargain-Hunting Queen of Northern California. Hey, with four growing daughters in a one-income family, she had to do something. Plus, we had one canine and two feline mouths to feed, not to mention the occasional, short-lived hamster. Even though she often made budget meals, Mom was an excellent cook. She prepared delicious roasts, mouth-watering chicken dishes, a lovely ham at Christmas and fancy, delectable appetizers at parties. But when she had to stretch a dollar — and man could my Mom stretch one — we’d sometimes sit down to dinner and wish to God that we could send our plates to the starving children in China. Though we usually gagged our way through it, I sometimes crave the comfort of one of the dishes we had after the monthly trip with Mom to the Blue Chip Stamp store, or after returning from the city dumps with Dad. However, the dish highlighted today is not one I crave, or ever craved.

Our family sat down to dinner every night, and we each had our designated spot at the dining room table: Dad at the head (best viewing spot to see “Hogan’s Heroes” during dinner), Mom to his left, then Melissa, the youngest, next to her (for easy wipe-ups). On Dad’s right was my oldest sister, Tracy, then me, and to my right at the other end of the table was my younger sister, Coleen. This all worked out great. But damn, did I hate sitting next to Coleen on Creamed Corn night. Well, we all hated sitting at the table on Creamed Corn night. But Coleen goes on record as the world’s most exaggerated gagger when it came to creamed corn. I hated to see it … the tiny beads of sweat on her little forehead, the way that blue vein bulged at her temple, and the constant LOUD gags and partial vomiting that occurred right next to me. I felt sorry for her, but I couldn’t rescue her … no way in hell was I gonna offer to eat her portion of creamed corn. And so it went. After about 20 minutes into the gag-a-thon, Dad would usually be at the point of gagging himself, and would talk Mom into letting Coleen off the hook. Eventually Coleen was able to substitute another yummy vegetable dish on Creamed Corn night (like Green Bean Casserole). But here’s what the rest of us ate:

Creamed Corn Bake

Ingredients:
2 cans of Corn (the store brand is just fine for this, and will likely save you at least 20 cents)
1 can of Creamed Corn (see above)
1 can of Cream of Celery Soup (again, save yourself the dime and use the store brand)
Saltine Crackers – crumbled

Put the canned ingredients into a ceramic baking dish. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, and crumble the crackers on the top. Bake another 10 minutes or until the crackers turn into mush and ooze into the corn.

Serve with barf bags.

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I love birthdays. Especially mine. And I love birthday cake. Not the kind from the bakery, but actual homemade cake. My Mom always made our birthday cakes when we were growing up.

Below is a pic of one of Mary Ann’s cakes. This is my little sister, Melissa, on her second birthday. She’s blowing out her birthday candles surrounded by my sisters, Coleen and Tracy. Looks like Coleen’s helping her blow out the candles and Tracy is holding her by the PJ’s so she doesn’t fall off the chair. Melissa’s sporting a fancy birthday hat one of us made with paper and glitter. Not sure where I am — maybe those are my hands on the left. I’m probably clapping or rubbing my hands together excitedly because we had to eat Friday Night Casserole for dinner and I was starving.

 

 

My favorite was Mary Ann’s M & M Cake, which I thought she had invented: chocolate cake and chocolate frosting, decorated with M & Ms. Tracy knows how much I loved it, so here are some cupcakes and a mini M & M cake she made for a recent birthday of mine:

 

 

My second favorite cake was Cherry Chip with pink frosting and pink sprinkles. Mary Ann taught me how to bake when I was little, and I still like to bake. I’d make cakes and cookies with the nieces and nephews when they were little. Below is my niece, Madi, helping make a Cherry Chip Cake a few years ago. She’s quite the artist, so she made sure to add pink sprinkles just like Mary Ann would:

 

 

And here’s my niece, Addi, helping me make a cake when she was about 4:

 

 

Here’s a brownie-baking session with Addi:

 

 

The head-in-bowl technique was apparently something she learned from her Uncle Jay.

 

Here’s my nephew, Logan, at about 4, helping with chocolate chip cookies :

 

 

Or actually, feeding cookie dough to my sister’s dog:

 

 

There was another cake Mary Ann made that we liked. But if she had told me the ingredients involved, I would’ve never eaten it. It was called Mayonnaise Cake. There’s actually mayonnaise in it. That’s disgusting. I’m a Miracle Whip girl at heart, and never liked mayonnaise. Growing up in our house, there were always two condiments you’d find in the fridge, thanks to Papa Don: Heinz Ketchup (of course) and Miracle Whip. Papa Don used Miracle Whip on every sandwich, and it’s all my sisters and I used when we made school lunches. Miracle Whip and Land O’ Frost luncheon meats, Miracle Whip and American cheese, Miracle Whip and liverwurst (hurl). Papa Don even ate Miracle Whip and peanut butter sandwiches. I tried one once. Not a fan, but it was still better than Miracle Whip and liverwurst.

So I did like Mayonnaise Cake. It simply tasted like chocolate cake to me. Mary Ann would ice it with Cool Whip, which I’d scrape off. But you could’ve fooled me that there was mayonnaise in it. As I got older, I realized that adding mayonnaise was really no different than adding oil and eggs, so it made sense. So give this cake recipe a try if you run out of eggs and oil. Just be sure not to substitute Miracle Whip for the mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise Cake

1 Cup sugar

1 Cup water

1 Cup mayonnaise

1 tsp vanilla

2 Cups flour

½ Cup cocoa

½ tsp baking soda

Mix the sugar, water, mayonnaise and vanilla in a large bowl. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda, and then add to the wet mixture, mixing until combined. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. When the cake is cooled, frost it with Cool Whip if you’re retro, or use good ol’ chocolate frosting. Or forget the frosting and place a doily on top of the cake and dust it with powdered sugar to make it ’70s fancy.

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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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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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On a few occasions, most likely a Pay Day Friday, my family would go out for Chinese Food. That was pretty much the only Asian cuisine we knew of around the Vallejo suburbs back then. I specifically remember the Cathay Inn. Not a fan. Not that their food wasn’t good. Of course I wouldn’t know, the only thing I ever ate there were the deep-fried prawns. The only thing my family ever ate was the Sweet and Sour Pork and Chow Mein. However, this wasn’t your Sweet and Sour Pork and Chow Mein of today … I vaguely remember chunks of fat covered in limp, bready stuff with bland red sauce and bean sprouts, maybe with a few noodles mixed in. I’m not sure the waitress ever handed us menus, because this is all we ever ordered. The prawns were a safe bet for my discerning palette, and even though I didn’t like fortune cookies, at least there was the promise of a goofy fortune at the end of the meal.

I swore I hated Chinese Food until my sister, Coleen, dragged me to the Mandarin House in Napa as an adult and ordered Broccoli Chicken for me. I was in love. This was Chinese food?! What the hell were we eating as kids?! I don’t remember Orange Chicken! Or potstickers! Cashew Shrimp? Food, glorious food!! Take me to a restaurant now, and all I want is Chinese, Japanese or Thai. Make it Asian please. Domo arigato!!

But I digress. When we couldn’t make it to the Cathay Inn, Mom had her version of Asian fare, and believe it or not, I think I actually enjoyed this one.

Ingredients:
• 4 packages of Top Ramen or any dried Asian noodles on sale. Alright, Top Ramen probably cost 2-1/2 cents a package then, so I have a feeling my Mom splurged for it.
• Prepare the ramen in pot as directed.
• Don’t bother transferring the noodles to a big fancy serving dish — you don’t have one.

Prepare a few of these optional toppings:

Chopped green onions
Grated carrots
Chopped hard-boiled eggs
Chopped pieces of “Land-o-Frost” Pressed/Cooked Luncheon Meat
Diced tomatoes
Chopped Spam
Canned peas

Place each topping in its own special little bowl (substitute old margarine tubs as needed). Put the pot of Top Ramen in the middle of the table. Make sure to place it on the knitted potholder your youngest made for you in summer school. Space the little bowls equally around the pot (this is quite impressive if your kids’ friends come over for dinner). Put a teaspoon in each dish. Go to the small kitchen canister, dig your hand in past the stale saltine cracker packages and grab a handful of the soy sauce packets you saved from Chinese takeout. Place one at each table setting. Spoon some Top Ramen into each person’s dinner bowl and then let them dig into the toppings. If you want to make it fancy and expose the kids to some Japanese culture while they’re eating, be sure to turn on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

 

 

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Hey! It’s Friday Night Casserole’s Third Anniversary! You know what that means … a re-posting of the original FNC blog post, “the” Friday Night Casserole. The recipe of all recipes; I mean, the most disgusting recipe of all recipes you’ve ever heard.

I launched FNC on Mary Ann’s birthday, January 31st, in 2011.

Mom would be 71 today. I’m pretty sure she’s celebrating with something besides Friday Night Casserole. I just hope she’s enjoying all these ridiculous posts and crazy recipes as much as my three readers and I am.

So as tribute to my beautiful mom (pictured below in her Graduation photo), and in celebration of the third year of FNC, I give you, once again, “the” Friday Night Casserole.

SAMSUNG

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. She thought 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 for kids, because there were all these different rooms and areas with fun, 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 we just liked saying “Munchies.” Or, 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, perhaps a nice Jello Mold.

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Really, do any of those words go together? Chipped Beef? Beef on Toast? Creamed anything on toast?

Also known as Sh*t on a Shingle, this delicacy was served up in my house often when I was a kid. Yeah, it tasted like sh*t on a shingle. Looked like it, too. Not that I’ve ever eaten a shingle – or the other part for that matter. It’s no wonder that on Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast night I’d go outside and eat all the apricots off the tree in the backyard (which I’d then puke up all over my bedspread in the middle of the night).  Well, I had to eat something.  And it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be that creamed stuff.  Strangely, people actually like Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast. My Dad did; my sisters did, too. I think they still do. Mom would use those fake packaged Land O’Frost luncheon meat slices to make this. You know, the kind that costs about 12 cents a package. It’s quality sh*t.

Jay would probably love for me to make this — though I’m not going to. But hey, if you like mushy bread swimming in a creamy flour yuck sauce with fake meat, then by all means, fix this one.

This recipe results in about 2 cups of gravy, enough to feed four lucky family members.

Ingredients:

5 TBS butter

5 TBS flour

2 Cups of milk

2, 3 or 10 packages of Land O’ Frost Luncheon Meat (either Beef, Pastrami, or whatever; it doesn’t really matter)

Salt and Pepper

8 pieces of toast

Directions:

Throw all the ingredients in the garbage and go out for Fish ‘n Chips. Oh, wait … that was my wish when I was a kid. Here are the real directions:

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add flour and whisk to make a roux. (That sounds pretty fancy. I don’t think Mary Ann knew she was making a roux.) Add the milk to the pan. If you add warm milk, the gravy will be done faster, in case you just can’t wait to get to the dinner table with the stuff. Use cold milk and it will take longer (recommended – there’s always the hope that a friend or family member will show up at the door with a pizza before this creamed stuff is finished). Warm or cold, whisk the milk with the roux constantly until thickened. Chop up those fine slices of luncheon meat and add to the cream stuff. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toast – about two pieces per person.

You’ll know you’ve got the recipe just right if it looks like your dog barfed (or something else) on a wet piece of Wonder Bread.

shingle

 photo: http://imgfave.com/view/1635688

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