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Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

It’s true, I hate buffets. I think I’ve mentioned that before. Yes, if I’m on vacation, or visiting family and they take us to a buffet, I indulge. I mean, I have to eat. But as a serious germaphobe, it’s a disgusting experience. I pour on hand sanitizer before, during and after filling my plate. I practice the “serve with the left, eat with the right” strategy (only touching serving utensils with my left hand) so if I have to pick up a roll or something, my right hand is clean (enough) to touch it. I literally watched a little kid stick his finger in a dessert the last time I was at a buffet. Then he licked it and stuck it back in again. I sometimes see people taking food using their own fork. Not to mention those who decide, “meh … I don’t want this after all” … and slide a serving of slop off their own plate back into the community pan. So I do what I have to do to survive at buffets. I look for the “chef” making omelets behind the serving area, or the “chef” making Mongolian-style dishes behind the serving area. When I have to get food from some community bowl or pan, I reach way in the back … after removing the top layer of cootie-exposed food.

Jay freakin’ loves buffets. He could give a rat’s ass about cooties. He loves to eat and buffets are his Disneyland. I even watch him eat rolls and cookies with either hand, and lick his fingers. Shudder. I make him stay away from me for a week after we eat at buffets.

Anyway, I had to pour through the infamous Good Housekeeping’s Casserole Cook Book for blog inspiration this week. Always disgusting, yet always accommodating. This is the precious gem I found to ridicule. It was easy — “Buffet” was in the recipe title:

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I’m not sure if you read all of those ingredients, but this is certainly something I’d expect to find in a buffet … in the ’70s … in hell. These fancy Good Housekeeping recipes always try to pull me in with the onions and garlic, and then BAM!! Frankfurters, olives, kidney beans and hominy. You know that stuff will look just the same in the casserole dish as it will when it’s thrown up into the toilet.

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I’m not kidding when I say I watch Hoarders to feel better about myself.

Well, I’m not a hoarder, and I feel really bad for anyone struggling with that issue. See, I have a big fear of filth, dirt and cooties. I am one of the biggest germaphobes there is. I apply hand sanitizer with an antibacterial wipe. You should see it when I stay at a hotel – man, I hit that place like Hazmat. However, I am guilty of “cluttering.” Yeah, I make mini-tornados all around my house.

I definitely am a messmaker. In fact, that’s one of Jay’s nicknames for me … typically used when I’m cooking. I love to cook and experiment with new recipes. But look out. When I’m in the kitchen, there is stuff flying everywhere – measuring cups landing here, sauces flung there, vegetable peels stuck to the wall, flour poofing all over the place. I don’t know what happens. I always start out organized. I neatly put out my cutting board, bowls, whisks, measuring cups, whatever; and, of course, a garbage bowl like Rachael Ray taught us. Though I don’t have a fancy $35 dollar garbage bowl; I use a plastic grocery bag (Mom would be proud).

It’s the same thing when I make jewelry or other crafts. I have stuff everywhere. Plus, if I set a tool or component down to get back to later, when I need it, I can’t remember where I put it. When I used to work for The Man I’d do the same thing with my pen. Doesn’t matter that I just wrote something with it five minutes prior; I could never find that thing on my desk.

So as for my clutter issue, me thinks it’s just subconscious adult rebellion from growing up under the watchful eye of Mary Ann. That woman ran our house like a well-oiled machine. We had to make our beds every day (Um, what? We’re just going to sleep in them again in 16 hours. Ask me if I make my bed today …) Once, she even did the “dime test.” She bounced a dime off our sheets like they did in the military to see if they were stretched tight enough. I can’t remember if she was joking then or not. Probably not. So she wasn’t too proud when my dime hit the sheet and stuck like glue. Mom was cleaning our house 24/7. And my sisters and I had to help clean it. We had serious chore lists, people. Maybe you’ve seen that post. Along with vacuuming, dusting, floor-scrubbing, dish-washing, lunch-making and yard work, Mom would always have special tasks for us to complete. We actually had to clean the leaves of fake house plants with vinegar. We polished and shined my Dad’s work shoes. We cleaned our combs with old toothbrushes. We soaked and scrubbed shoe laces. Holy crap, I’m not sure if I’m still talking about my childhood or summarizing the film, Mommie Dearest.

I actually like having a clean, uncluttered house. I work on it every time we’re expecting company. But I will likely never file everything in my office stack of papers which is now seven inches high. I will probably never sort through my box of photos and get them in fancy little frames to put on the wall. I will probably never organize the pantry. I will probably never sort the random jewelry-making components piled all over my work desk. I will probably never go through all the random flower pots on the side of the house and paint them and plant something in them like I planned. I will probably never go through the crap stuck in the seat pockets in my car.

But that’s cool. It doesn’t matter. I’ve got better things to do. The truth is, I probably will eventually file that stack of paper (at least by April 15, 2015), and sort through the photos, and maybe even organize the pantry. But I’m pretty sure the mess-making will continue in the kitchen.

“Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.”

I love that quote. Not sure who should be given credit for it … Harriet Van Horne … the Dalai Lama … Life’s Little Instruction Book. Maybe my Mom.

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I love green eggs and ham. You know, that fun children’s classic by Dr. Seuss. And I love actual green eggs — those fancy blue-green eggs laid by Araucanas chickens. At least I think that’s what those chickens are called. I love eggs and ham in general — especially when they’re placed on an English muffin and drowned in Hollandaise. But when eggs turn green because they’re mushed into a casserole with green stuff … well, that’s just wrong. I think you know where this is going.

The infamous Good Housekeeping’s Casserole Cook Book. I picked it up again to find another recipe to make fun of. It’s not hard to do. There were plenty of contenders as I flipped through: a certain liver recipe entitled “Columbus Casserole” (ohhh-kay?), a fancy entrée that called for 1-1/2 tablespoons of bottled meat sauce (hurl … what is THAT??), even a Tuna-Lemon Pie (don’t ask). But then I stumbled upon a recipe entitled “Ham ‘n’ Eggs.” Hmm. Sounds good, right? I mean, how can you mess up ham and eggs? Like this:

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I won’t bother you with the preparation instructions. I’ll just show you the photo of the finished dish. Just pretend those deviled ham and packaged biscuit mix pinwheels on top are luscious cinnamon rolls. And ignore that green stuff oozing up to the surface.

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I would not eat this in a box. I would not eat this with a fox (even if the fox was John Stamos). I would not eat this here or there. I would not eat this anywhere.

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I haven’t seen a Jello Mold since around 1975. Thank God. There’s a reason they called it a mold. It tastes about as good as mold; well, at least the Jello Molds I remember from my childhood. Sure, they looked fancy and all, but if my Mom added stuff in the Jello, I didn’t want anything to do with it. I could deal with mandarin oranges or marshmallows in them, but not any of the other tasty nuggets that could be found swimming in one of Mary Ann’s Jello Molds – things like carrots, raisins or walnuts – sometimes all of them together.

Back in the ‘70s, I think we only had a few varieties of Jello: red, green, orange and yellow. I guess they had flavors, like cherry or lime, but our Jello choices were quite limited then. In all honesty, I kinda liked Cherry Jello with colored marshmallows prepared in one of those fancy plastic jello molds. And Mary Ann also made really cool Jello 1-2-3 dishes. (See the photo in the blog banner above.) She would make the Jello 1-2-3 in separate fancy wine glasses and tip them in the fridge, so when they set they’d have an intriguing diagonal design. Impressive and inexpensive – right up Mom’s alley.

But when it comes to most of the Jello Molds I remember as a kid, they were certainly a dessert I’d pass up. I guess I didn’t have it as bad as kids in the late ‘50s though. See, I found this 1956 issue of Sunset magazine at an estate sale:

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I was flipping through it because I just knew I’d find something ridiculous to make fun of. And here it is:

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If you’re wondering what that is, well, it’s a Jello Mold. A quite fancy version. A quite disgusting version actually, with probably the most repulsive ingredients to ever be included in a Jello Mold. Just look at the recipe:

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Yes, you read that correctly: shrimp, pimento, cucumber, vinegar, onions and horseradish … in JELLO. And if that isn’t bad enough, look what else the recipe suggests:

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Excuse me? Top it with mayonnaise? Those people have lost their minds. And sure, just serve it with potato chips and asparagus for a fancy meal. I’m fine with the asparagus, but what are the potato chips for? To dip in to the creepy Jello Mold like it’s a savory onion dip? No thanks. Suddenly, soggy carrots, raisins and walnuts don’t sound too bad.

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With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, Jay and I are putting together our dinner menu. This year we’re hosting family for the traditional dinner. We usually go to one of my sister’s places for holiday dinners, but this year Tracy is getting ready to remodel her kitchen, Coleen will be at her in-laws and Melissa will be in Napa (darnit … she has two kitchens with a total of three ovens). So Jay and I are making Thanksgiving dinner here. He acquired two turkeys for free after doing some volunteer work with a friend, and now his current passion is to complete the rest of the dinner for under $15. That should take care of mashed potatoes, dinner rolls and a green salad. I sure hope the rest comes together with the dishes that everyone else brings. Oh, and he also acquired a free case of green beans. Sigh. That means Green Bean Casserole. Actually my niece, Tristene, will take the green beans and make the dish, which is great, because I don’t want anything to do with them. I hate green beans. I mean, I’m allergic to green beans (that excuse seems to go over better with everyone who doesn’t understand my discriminating palate). The only “green” beans I’ll eat are soy beans. Maybe I should make edamame for Thanksgiving. In fact, I always try to talk everyone into Japanese food or Italian food for Thanksgiving. It hasn’t worked yet.

(Oh, hold please. While sitting here on the couch, I just heard Jay dig his hand into the chip bag and he was actually snoring two seconds ago. Need to make sure he’s not sleep eating again.)

Okay, I’m back. You know, I really don’t like traditional Thanksgiving food. As a kid, I survived off of mashed potatoes, a roll and the marshmallows off the top of the yams. And maybe canned black olives if I was lucky. But stuffing? Blecch. Candied yams? Blecch. Cranberry sauce? Blecch. Green Bean Casserole? Double Blecch.

I know, you all love it I’m sure, especially at Thanksgiving. But probably not the variety of Green Bean Casserole my Mom used to make. The ‘French’ string beans Mary Ann found for this dish seemed to have that extra ‘hairy coating’ on them that made me texture-gag. And I don’t know what was worse, the hairy green beans or the “gourmet” canned fried onions that melted into goo on top of them. Hmm, hairy green beans … I guess that’s where the French name “haricot vert” came from … hairy French veggies.

Tracy actually asked for seconds of Green Bean Casserole. Brown-Noser. I, on the other hand, would secretly practice my telepathic skills to summon our German shepherd, Sundance, over to the table to eat my portion. She was no dummy. She’d look at me out of the corner of her eye and wait for me to telepathically offer her my Spam instead. Yep, she could have that, too.

There’s just nothing like a mouth-watering recipe off the side of a canned food item. I don’t even have to give you the recipe for Green Bean Casserole; you all probably have it committed to memory. You’re probably fixing it right now.

Till this day, I can’t even eat regular canned green beans. The only kind of green beans I can handle are those of the fresh variety. But canned spinach? Hello!! I love every type of spinach there is. I eat spinach salad just about every night. I’ll open up a can of spinach and dig in with my fork just to gross Jay out (it is possible). I might even throw it on a plate cold and sprinkle some apple cider vinegar on it. Yum. Am I grossing anyone out? Good. That’s what you get for liking Green Bean Casserole.

But Happy Thanksgiving!

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I’m pretty hungry right now. But I’m trying to hold out for dinner. I shouldn’t be sitting near the kitchen, because there are homemade brownies sitting on the counter. They keep looking at me. So I thought, hmmm, what could deter me from eating some crap and ruining my appetite before dinner? Ah, my trusty “The ABC of Casseroles Book.” Certainly one of the recipes will gross me out enough to lose these hunger pangs for awhile. So I started flipping through the pages, and there it was: Liver Casserole. Enough said. As if I wasn’t grossed out enough by the fancy poem on the previous page:

Eke? I guess that’s like “EEK!! A disgusting casserole!” Well, even though the title “Liver Casserole” did the trick, I just had to keep on reading. And I’m really sorry I did:

Liver, okra, lima beans, celery, green pepper … all on the list of foods I can’t stand. Well, I did eat deep-fried okra once, and it was okay. But it’s probably not okay drowned in bouillon and mixed with … gulp … apple jelly cubes. I need a chaser after reading that recipe. I think I’ll go watch an episode of “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern.

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Pizza ala Coen

Today is a very important day. It’s the birthday of THE Papa Don of Friday Night Casserole fame. So I figured it would be the perfect time to pay homage to Papa Don’s favorite food ingredient in any recipe:  hamburger.

My Dad loves hamburger…in spaghetti sauce, whipped into a fancy meatloaf, in Porcupine Balls, in Sloppy Joes or just by itself…wait! never by itself; it would certainly need some Heinz Ketchup. So why the “Pizza ala Coen” post you ask?

When I was a kid, Mary Ann made homemade pizza. Not a doctored-up frozen pizza—of course, I don’t even remember frozen pizza then. I do remember ‘pizza in a box’ though. I believe it was Chef Boyardee. There was a pouch of dough stuff and a can of pizza sauce…basically bland tomato paste. You were on your own for toppings. Oh look, here it is:

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I don’t remember the cheese part. Probably for good reason. I don’t think Mary Ann ever used Chef Boyardee more than once. We did eat a lot of Nujo’s Pizza in Vallejo though. That was the best pizza in the area when I was a kid—in fact, Nujo’s is still alive and kicking on Georgia Street. I was sad to leave Nujo’s behind when we moved to Napa in the early ‘70s, that is, until we discovered Silverado Trail Pizzeria. I can still taste the greasy deliciousness of those large pizza pies. Yes, they were on the famous Silverado Trail in Napa. Unfortunately, they’re closed now. I’m not sure how long ago they closed their business, but it was a sad, sad day for pizza lovers. I’m not kidding when I say they had the best pizza I ever ate…probably better than any pizza from New York or Chicago—though I’ve never had a pizza from New York or Chicago. I’m just saying.

The combination pizzas at Silverado Trail Pizzeria left an impression on me, and if I close my eyes and try really hard, I can still taste them. The same is true for Mary Ann’s “Pizza ala Coen.” She made her pizzas from scratch, and Pizza ala Coen featured Papa Don’s favorite ingredient: hamburger. And onions. You’d think little kids would turn their noses up at that combination, but it was quite the contrary. We loved Pizza ala Coen. Especially when served up with large glasses of RC Cola.

I found my original copy of her infamous pizza recipe. I copied it from Mary Ann’s, and mine cheats with a prepared roll mix for the pizza dough. Sue me. This is actually a simple recipe, so the next time you think you need to order pizza delivery, give this one a try:

These days I add mushrooms and onions to my pizza, but back in the day, Pizza ala Coen featured hamburger and onion. If you like the original recipe, you can thank Papa Don, as he was obviously the inspiration. And since my Dad thinks I post goofy ‘old’ pictures of him on this blog, I dug up a few smooth pics in honor of his birthday. Happy Birthday King Cool!  (I imagine we probably promised you many years ago that we wouldn’t call you that anymore, but I think it’s appropriate today.) Love ya Dad!

Papa Don cutting a rug with his sister-in-law Terry

Papa Don’s first passport shot. I think it’s smooth. I may get a comment from him that he doesn’t like it.

Papa Don dancing (again), this time with Phyllis. He’s looking like a bad-motha-shut-your-mouth with that hat.

Jay always sneaks into the background when people are taking pictures. Here’s Papa Don giving him a taste of his own medicine. This is where I get my sense of humor. Thanks Dad! Happy, Happy Birthday!

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