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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

I love cooking shows. I love to cook and I like to find inspiration from all the shows on Food Network and all the others. I certainly don’t find inspiration in the dishes I post about on this blog. When I was a kid, the only cooking show I remember was “Julia Child.” But I wasn’t that interested in Julia Child, until the Dan Aykroyd version on Saturday Night Live. But my real favorites are sitcoms. “Modern Family” is the best. That show makes me laugh out loud. That hasn’t happened since Frazier ended its last season. If you haven’t watched Modern Family, do yourself a favor and tune in to ABC on Wednesday nights.

I’ve loved sitcoms since I was a kid … a really little kid. It was kind of an extension of family dinner—we’d all eat together then sprawl out on the couch or the floor and watch TV together.  When I was growing up, we had just one TV. That’s right all you youngins  … one TV. And guess what? There was no remote. We were the remote. And we watched what our parents wanted to watch. Oh yeah, I’m not kidding. If we were lucky, we got to watch comedy shows like “Laugh-In” or “The Flip Wilson Show.” (“Killer!!”) Other times we had to watch “Gunsmoke,” or “Dragnet,” or “Perry Mason,” or something just as riveting. Of course Mom and Dad indulged us on Friday nights so we could watch “The Brady Bunch,” ” Nancy and the Professor” and “The Partridge Family.” Hey, sometimes we didn’t watch TV at all. Maybe we played Bingo for candy; Dad took great pride in being the Bingo Caller. Sometimes we’d play another board game. Sometimes we’d just hang out on the living room floor and give each other Indian burns while Dad slept on the couch and Mom piddled around in the kitchen. Or sometimes we actually went to our rooms to READ A BOOK or something insane like that.

I remember our first TV in Vallejo. It had rabbit ears on top. No children, not actual bunny ears, but an old antenna that had a box with a dial that you would turn to try and turn the antenna on your roof so you could get one of those THREE local TV stations to tune in a little better. Sometimes it would only work if a kid stood there and held one of the antennas. You’re welcome, Dad.

Kids today are so spoiled. I guess every generation thinks the younger generation is spoiled. I imagine my Grandpa B.K. sat around thinking, “These damn kids … they expect me to buy two radios so they can go listen to “Inner Sanctum” instead of the “Grand Ole Opry.”

I’ve always loved TV. My Mom said I loved it from the beginning. Apparently when I was a baby, Mom would have to sleep on the couch, waiting for my baby self to be tired enough to go to bed. She said I would lay awake in the playpen (which for whatever reason she’d prop in front of the TV) and watch “Johnny Carson.” I would lay awake and take in every second of his show, and once it went off the air, I dropped off to sleep. I guess I loved good comedy even as an infant. So why I’m watching Andrew Zimmern eat a 100-year-old egg on “Bizarre Foods” right now is beyond me. Jay thinks something as innocent as fish is gross, yet he is zoned in on this show like Andrew’s about to read off our lottery numbers. And he’s even giggling. I’m breathing through my nose and waiting for Jay to drop off to sleep so I can revisit my Netflix copy of ” The United States of Tara.” It’s like getting five TV shows for the price of one.

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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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Oh yeah, they’re stupid alright, or should I say … stooopid. Sure, eating fries is usually stupid if you’re watching your diet, but I’m talking about another kind of fries.

We were in Southern California last week visiting Jay’s family, and Jay’s twin brothers, James and John, were raving about these Stupid Fries we just had to try at a Huntington Beach Restaurant called Red Table. These fries were apparently hot. Spicy hot. Wicked hot. Adam Richman-can’t-eat-them hot. Jay and his brothers love spicy food. Jay eats food so spicy it makes macho Mexican men faint. So the brothers knew Jay just had to try them.

Our son, Mikel, flew in to LA to be with us, and while he was on a layover , he texted Jay to see what we’d be doing that evening. Jay texted back that James and John wanted us to go get some Stupid Fries. Mikel texted back asking if there’d be anything besides potatoes for dinner. See, he thought his Uncles were going to cruise us through a McDonald’s or something for some regular stupid fries. He didn’t know that Stupid Fries were a fancy side dish we’d have at a fancy Huntington restaurant.

Naturally James and John had tried the Stupid Fries before. In fact, James was the first to discover them. He asked the waitress how stupid you had to be to eat them. She said really stupid. So James brought his twin, John, back to the restaurant and they were served by the same waitress. So James told her, since you said someone has to be really stupid to eat these, I brought my brother, John. That’s how it is with James and John. I’m still waiting for the day they take their comedy act on the road.

So we all went to this fancy Huntington restaurant, and there they were on the menu:

See, they’re Stooopid. Note the “Warning!” on the menu. Stay tuned. So they ordered the fries and everyone immediately started digging in to them. See, they look quite innocent:

But that’s not ketchup on the side. And notice the super-freakin’-hot spicy stuff dusted all over them. Oh, and that stuff that’s not ketchup? It’s a sauce made of habanero and ghost chilis (the hottest pepper on the planet apparently) that marinates in its own deathly heat for 3 or 4 days. I didn’t even go near the sauce. I’m not stooopid. But just to say I tried them, I took one little French fry and touched it to the tip of my tongue. Immediately my tongue and bottom lip felt like a big blistering ball of hell fire and brimstone. So I just watched the rest of the family through my tears.

Here’s Jay—the heat lovin’ guy was twitching in pain at this point. Said his mouth was numb, but he kept eating them.

This is John. He had to switch from drinking from his water glass to downing the whole pitcher.

Mikel can’t believe we’ve made him eat these. He’s ready to call Child Protective Services.

Jame’s wife, Diana, is so sweet the fries wouldn’t be mean to her. But she did have to fan herself after every bite. That blur you see below her face is her hand moving like a hummingbird’s wing.

And James was enjoying them, though he had to tend to the tears of pain every once in awhile.

I didn’t take a picture of John’s wife, Debbie, cuz she wasn’t stooopid enough to eat them. She’s a Doctor after all.

Speaking of medical professions, let me show you how the evening ended:

Yep, the stooopid fries got the best of one of the restaurant patrons that night. I’m not kidding. Let’s just say if you make a visit to the Red Table in Huntington Beach, steer clear of the Stooopid Fries. Just order yourself a nice little salad.

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I think I’ve mentioned our childhood chore lists before. Mom had us washing dishes as soon as we could stand on chairs and reach the faucet. This may sound like child endangerment, but if you recall, Macaulay Culkin’s character “Miles” stood on a chair to wash dishes in the movie “Uncle Buck.” Of course he made it look fun—and probably had 13 stunt guys and stage hands around in case he began to fall off the chair.

Our dishwasher is currently broken, so I’ve been washing dishes by hand. Brings back fond memories of that nightly chore. Two of us girls were put in charge of dish duty: one to wash, one to dry. After years of dishwashing, we had to think of a way to entertain ourselves while we scrubbed and dried. I don’t know who started it, but we’d take turns playing “Bride.” (This is much safer than playing “Neighbor” which you may recall from my post a few weeks back.) One of us would grab a plate, put it on our head and place the cloth dish towel over it. Then we’d walk ‘gracefully’ across the floor pretending to be walking down the aisle. Apparently this thrilled us enough to do every night; well, with the exception of a few soap bubble fights.

Sometimes we’d be gliding around in our plate-towel veil and catch a glimpse of Dad leaning against the kitchen wall and staring at us with his arms crossed. Busted. He got sick of our time-wasting shenanigans, so he began setting the kitchen egg timer to 30 minutes. We had to be done within that time, or else. I can’t remember what “or else” was … I think we lost our Friday Night “Partridge Family” viewing rights. Well, those old egg timers were quite easy to manipulate. We must’ve re-set that thing at least another half hour every night. In fact, one night it took us almost three hours to do the dishes. I don’t know how Dad outsmarted us after that. Oh, I remember–that’s when we got our dishwasher.

Back to Mom’s chores list. She posted it up on the dining room wall. We had plenty of chores to keep us busy on a daily basis.

If you think I’m exaggerating, look at this note I found. It’s circa 1975, I think. So that would mean my sisters and I were ages 13, 12, 9 and 5.

I don’t remember why we didn’t have hot water; we weren’t that poor. Maybe the water heater was on the fritz. And Mom apparently had to emphasize my dish chore. Hmm. Maybe I was having trouble staying on task. She continues …

When Mom said to clean our room from top to bottom, she meant vacuuming, dusting, changing sheets and putting every shred of kid evidence away. Her note concludes…

Yeah, we had to take the bus. That’s a story for another time.

Well, I made out fairly well as far as the amount of chores went. Coleen certainly got the worst of it that day. On top of every other chore for this nine-year-old, she had to make dinner and prepare all the fancy weekly drinks. That’s right, the note said “fix milk” … I refer you to one of my original posts “Got Powdered Milk?” Poor Coleen.

Well, that was a busy summer day for us. Dad was enjoying himself at work and I guess Mom was going out for a spa day. Actually, I think she had just started a new job after being out of the work force for a while and apparently didn’t have time to update our usual chore list on the wall. I just wish I could remember what Coleen pulled together for dinner that night. Oh yeah … Friday Night Casserole.

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My Aunt Bessie was my favorite. When I was born I was a month or so premature–and apparently gave my Mom one heck of a time during my delivery–so Aunt Bessie came to stay with us to help take care of me and my older sister, Tracy, while Mom had some bed rest. Aunt Bessie was my Dad’s sister-in-law. She stood all of 4’7” soaking wet. Her husband, my Uncle Frank, stood about 6’5’ slouching. They were an impressive sight. Aunt Bessie and Uncle Frank moved to Ogden, Utah when I was little, so I only got to see her, Uncle Frank and my cousins on summer vacations.

I can remember driving across that barren desert between California and Utah in our trusty wood-paneled Ford Station Wagon. The morning of the trip, Mom would wake all four of us kids up at like 4:00 a.m. and line us up on the couch. Dad would be out packing up the car, which Mom had turned in to a traveling Motel 6 the day before. Before we could pile in to the car, Mom made us each drink a half can of 7-Up each…to “settle our stomachs” for the road trip. With my amazing oral hygiene, I had brushed my teeth first, and let me tell ya, 7-up mixed with toothpaste-mouth tastes somewhat like bad bourbon.

We’d all wander comatose to the car, one of us with our baby sister Melissa in our arms, to fall in to our spots. Tracy was the queen, so she got the back seat. Mom had packed ice coolers, overnight bags and who knows what else on the floorboards, and then piled blankets on top of those and the back seat so that Tracy had a spacious full bed to spread out on. Coleen, Melissa and I got the back. Mom would lay out all the sleeping bags and our pillows and we would share that back space. I could never sleep. I pretended I could so my parents wouldn’t feel bad, but I was always worried that the back door would fly open and I’d go flailing out onto the night highway. So I made sure to never push my feet too hard against the back door. Sometimes I’d pop my head up until my parents would invite me up to the front seat to sit between them. I’d be sure to step square on Tracy’s back on my way up.

When daylight hit we’d all be awake and bouncing around the inside of that station wagon. Mom would always be prepared with snacks and Car Bingo to keep us occupied. There were no Capri Suns or mobile devices back then, but we were perfectly content with our Styrofoam cup of Tang and little Car Bingo board. For about an hour. God knows how our parents put up with us the rest of the time. My Dad’s foot certainly got heavier on the pedal as the day progressed. I remember one time we were in the middle of the Salt Lake Desert and I looked over at the speedometer…see we were all standing up leaning over the front seat because really, who stayed in their seatbelts back then? Did we even have seatbelts? Anyway we were all leaning over the front seat and I said, “Dad! Slow down!!! You’re doing 90!!!” See, I was the Miss Goody-Two-Shoes of the family. So Dad slowed down to the 55 speed limit. I then said, in unison with my sisters, “Dad, speed up again!” Yeah, we didn’t want to be in that car with each other any longer than we had to.

My parents didn’t want to be in that car either. One time, we were acting up a little too much and my Dad had to pull the car over (like they always threaten. Well, he did it.)  Mom opened up that station wagon’s back door and was opening up a can of much-deserved whoop-ass on us. Just then a policeman pulled up. He walked up to my Mom as she was in the throes of spanking us and said, “Ma’am, what’s going on here?” She stopped smacking us for a second to say, “Officer, I’m just disciplining my children.” He paused for a moment then said, “Carry on.” And left. Today, my Mom would be doing 10 to 20 in the state pen for child abuse.

Well, we finally reached our destination of Ogden, Utah and Aunt Bessie’s house. There was all kinds of fun with my cousins Gayle, Sharon and Dwayne, day trips to campgrounds, swimming in someone’s pool, sliding on the Slip and Slide in Aunt Bessie’s back yard and playing poker. Well, the adults played poker and we got to watch.

Aunt Bessie was a baking, sewing fiend. She made the best cookies, pies and pastries and created amazing quilts…all with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. She was so little she had a contractor build her a low countertop in the kitchen so she could roll out her dough with ease. I loved visiting her through the years and staying up late eating cookies and playing cards with her. She treated me like a grown-up. Maybe that’s because even as a kid I was taller than her.

Aunt Bessie had a big heart and a quick wit. The last time I visited her in 2005, she was in her early ‘80s and was up till midnight in her favorite chair, laughing and telling stories, with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

She passed away the following year and Tracy and I flew to Ogden for her memorial. After the service, we were shuffling through the food buffet line when I came across an interesting dish…I could clearly see potatoes, which is always a winner for me. I stuck the big metal spoon into the dish and asked my cousin…”are those corn flakes on top?” Yes, there were corn flakes on top. That intrigued me…a little sweet and savory potato dish would certainly not disappoint, though they were somewhat creepy.  So I asked, “What are these?”

“Those are Funeral Potatoes,” my cousin replied. I think I just stood there with my big spoon in the potatoes. Then I said, “Um, what are Funeral Potatoes?” She explained that they are basically a traditional potato casserole dish that someone always brings to the reception after a memorial service. And in Utah, most of those service receptions take place in a church hall, usually a Mormon church. Good thing my Aunt Bessie wasn’t Mormon because I’m guessing as a non-Mormon I wouldn’t have been allowed in to the service and I wouldn’t have discovered those delicious potatoes. I had three servings.

Funeral Potatoes

Ingredients

32-ounce bag of frozen hash browns

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 cups sour cream

1-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 cups corn flakes, crushed

2 TBS butter, melted

Directions

Grease 9×13 baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine soup, sour cream, cheese, onions and butter. Fold the hash browns into the mixture and pour into the baking dish. Combine crushed corn flakes and 2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle them on top of the potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes.

Dig in, then kiss your loved ones, and your diet, good-bye.

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I just finished making cookie batter and Rice Krispy treats to take to Christmas at my niece’s house with the family tomorrow. Well, I’m not actually offering cookie batter for everyone to eat—that’s for cookies for Jay later—but I will bring the Rice Krispy treats. I know they’re not the fanciest, or most challenging, treat to create. And I’m not able to brag about them on Facebook like other people who show each other up with their holiday delicacies, and daily driving dilemmas. I know what treats the kids like, and I make it. At least it’s not fruitcake.

When I was a kid, my Grandma Smothers would make her famous Molasses cookies for each grandkid, which meant a whole coffee can-full for each grandkid. Apparently they drank a lot of coffee. That can-full of Grandma’s Molasses cookies was one of my favorite gifts. My Mom made them for us, too, and passed the recipe down to us. I make them every year, and even bake about 700 to sell at the holiday bazaar where I work. They’re that good.

I imagine you’re waiting for the recipe. Sorry. I may have mentioned in one of my original posts that the recipe is a family secret. Let me cheer you up with this:

That’s an aluminum Christmas tree. We actually had one of those in the late ‘60s. Papa Don had a love for electronic gadgets, and these trees came with a color wheel that rotated underneath to shine different colors up into the metal branches.

That’s the color wheel, if you hadn’t figured that out yet. Quite impressive, right? I guess the aluminum Christmas tree phenomenon didn’t last long; I think we only put that tree up one or two years. You’d think those trees would’ve lasted into the early ‘70s—they would’ve worked well for acid-tripping hippies.

On Christmas morning, my sisters and I always had great gifts to look forward to. My favorite was my first bike when I was 7. Sometimes we’d get boy gifts when Papa Don forgot he had four daughters. But even those were fun. One of the coolest presents ever was a stereo my parents bought for me and Tracy when we were in Junior High. We shared a bedroom, so we shared the present. And we loved it. It had four speakers, which my Dad immediately set up strategically in our bedroom. He made us stand in the middle of the room with him and schooled us on the latest new “Quadraphonic” sound. My Mom walked by the bedroom door saying, “Oh yeah? I had quadraphonic before it was invented,” as she pointed to me and my three sisters. There were even headphones to go along with the stereo so we could blast our eardrums out and not bother our parents—my favorite artists then were Peter Frampton and Earth, Wind and Fire. Tracy’s album of choice was Gary Wright with his one-hit wonder “Dream Weaver.” Tracy sings really well, which she inherited from my Dad, and she would belt that song out while wearing those headphones. I don’t need to tell you how funny that was to me and my younger sisters….and our neighbors.

I hope you all get everything you want this Christmas!

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Yes, I’m still alive Friday Night Casserole lovers. It’s been a busy month and I apologize for the lack of posts. Jay is now in the “Storage Auction” business, and I’ve been helping him in my free time. It’s actually a little fun, though there are boxes and piles of ‘treasures’ all over our house. Seriously. So we’ve been quite busy with sorting, researching and preparing things for sale. But we did take the day off yesterday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

This year all of my family members were with in-laws or out of town, and Jay’s family is in California, so we decided to prepare our own Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s the first time in 11 years we made our own turkey as we’ve always been at some relative’s or friend’s house. Our lovely niece Brittany joined us for dinner, but she’s a vegetarian, so we figured if we ruined the turkey it would be okay.

To be honest, I never really liked Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, stuffing?? Mushy bread with weird spices and chunks of soggy celery baked all day in the ass of the turkey? Am I on my own here? Candied yams, pumpkin pie….all mushy, sugary blecch. Is this because most pilgrims had no teeth? And c’mon, do we really need to celebrate those selfish, Indian-bashing bastards any longer?

Fine, I guess when I was younger I did enjoy getting together with the relatives on Thanksgiving Day and causing mischief with my sisters and cousins…..which usually involved dressing up our poor, unsuspecting cousins, Jerry and Robbie, in their Mom’s clothes and makeup.

Well, yesterday Jay and I cooked a turkey, mashed potatoes, the usual…even green bean casserole to my dismay. And stuffing, or dressing, whatever you prefer to call it. We used my Mom’s old recipe:

TURKEY DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup bread crumbs

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons sage

1 cup white rice, uncooked

1 cup popcorn, unpopped

Mix together well. Stuff into turkey. Bake at 325° until the popcorn blows the ass off the turkey.

Ha! Gotcha. This is just a joke recipe Mary Ann sent me when I was away at college and it always makes me laugh. Jay and I actually cheated with Stove Top, and of course, I didn’t touch it.

We had plenty of leftover turkey and have been coming up with new ways to eat it. Today we decided on the usual turkey sandwiches. Jay put cheddar, mayo and Tapatio on his. I had to be fancy, of course, and started mine off with turkey and cheddar on top of homemade pesto, Italian dressing, onion and tomato. Then I broiled it and finished it off with avocado and lettuce. To me it was better than Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m looking for other ways to use the leftover turkey. I consulted the infamous “ABC of Casseroles” book for inspiration. Here’s what I found:

Okay, I’d rather eat green bean casserole stuffed in stuffing and topped off with candied yams than taste this dish. I don’t know why they always have to throw some knarly ingredient like “tongue” in these recipes. I think they’re just trying to show off so I’ll post their recipes on my blog.

So tell me what fancy dishes you’re all creating with your leftover turkey. I just might highlight them in my next post…especially if I think they’re disgusting and can make fun of them.

Happy Holiday Season Everyone!

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