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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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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:

buffet recipe

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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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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Well, if you’re reading this, we’re still here. The Mayans were just lazy and didn’t want to finish that calendar.

I had a great idea. I thought I’d bet everyone who thought the world would end a million dollars that it wouldn’t. Or at least a hundred dollars. If they truly believed the world would end, they’d bet, even though they knew they wouldn’t be around to enjoy their winnings. Of course, if I won the bet, which I would, they’d have to pay me. I’d be really rich. But I couldn’t find anyone who firmly believed today was the end of the world.

Mayan

(image from Sugar and Spice. Vodka and Ice. on facebook)

So I was thinking, what would be my last meal if I knew it was my last day on Earth? That’s a tough one. There’s so many wonderful things to choose from. Friday Night Casserole isn’t one of them, if you were wondering. I’d just want a huge table filled with all my favorite things, like these:

Alaskan King Crab Legs

Malfatti

Shrimp Tempura Sushi drenched in Teriyaki Sauce

Cheese Enchiladas topped with Guacamole, Cilantro and Sour Cream with Lime Zest

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Barbeque Potato Chips

Eggs Benedict drenched in Hollandaise Sauce

Big Fat Mocha

Pad Thai

Orange Chicken

Tomato Slices with Basil drenched in Balsamic Vinegar

Yakisoba

Junior Mints

Chicken Marsala with tons of mushrooms and onions

Veggie Pizza with extra cheese

Hash Browns and Fried Eggs drenched in Heinz Ketchup

Big fat Red Hook ESB

Well, that’s a start. And nope, no greens in there. Why would I care, I wouldn’t have to worry about vitamins, calories or heart disease.  So if you’re all here tomorrow, attach a comment with your ideal “Last Supper” items. I can’t wait to hear what they are. Now I’m gonna go eat a few things on this list … just in case.

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Forgive me Mary Ann, for I have sinned — it’s been four weeks since my last post.

Well, Mary Ann of all people knew what it was like to juggle everything AND make dinner, well, until we were all old enough to be her slaves.

Jay and I haven’t been doing too much real cooking these days. There have been lots of frozen pizzas, spaghetti and frozen fish. At least we always dress them up with spinach salad to make it fancy.

Oh yeah!! I almost forgot to tell you the big news!! Jay, hater of all things seafood, actually tried frozen fish. You know the kind, a step up from fish sticks … the battered cod filets you make with homemade tartar sauce (Miracle Whip and ketchup … hey,don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.) Well, Jay gave in one day. I don’t remember why. Here’s proof:

Oh yeah, he plugged his nose for real. Then after he determined he wouldn’t die, he took another bite:

That’s actually a tiny smile on his face. I think. The only other time I saw Jay eat seafood was in 2001. Oh yes, I remember it well. We were at a friend’s birthday party in Hermosa Beach. We were at some Asian place by the beach that brought beer bongs around to your table. Which might explain why Jay tried seafood. Somebody ordered a plate of oyster shooters. Now, I love seafood but I won’t even touch oyster shooters. Jay thought this would be his big triumph over seafood. I tried to talk him out of it. If you’re not a seafood lover, the LAST type of seafood you want to sample is raw oysters. Especially if you think you’re supposed to chew them (like Jay did). All I know is that he grabbed one of them, despite my attempts at talking him out of it, and popped it into his mouth. And then he realized: it … was … nasty. I’m pretty sure his gag reflex had already kicked in, because he couldn’t swallow it. Took him about a solid minute to get that thing down without puking. If it was me, I would’ve just spit it out, but he had friends to impress. Of course one of those friends projectile-vomited his oysters and sushi down our birthday table after indulging in a few beer bongs.

So every time since then when I’ve tried to talk Jay into trying crab, or lobster, or salmon … he won’t have it. That oyster had ruined him, or so I thought until the fancy battered frozen fish. Oh well, you gotta start somewhere. Of course, maybe I won’t try to get him to try crab again. If he likes it (and how could he not), I may never get my fair share again on fancy crab leg night.

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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:

http://www.businessinsider.com

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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Lots of people eat certain foods on New Year’s Day to bring them luck. I know some people eat cooked cabbage, or corned beef and cabbage, for good luck. You’d have to promise me a lottery jackpot to get me to eat cooked cabbage. My friend Carla makes black-eyed peas for luck on New Year’s Day. Jay said his Mom would make mochi, a type of rice cake, for good luck. It’s traditionally eaten for Japanese New Year, and he says it’s delicious with soy sauce, though it’s basically a hunk of gooey rubber. You know what I’ll be eating on New Year’s Day? Aspirin.

My parents didn’t have a New Year’s Day food ritual when I was growing up, at least that I can remember. Maybe they opted for the aspirin, also. I can certainly remember some crazy parties at my house when I was little. My parents and their friends and family would often hang out at our house—plenty of food, music…and booze. My Mom would lay out a spread of fancy appetizers…our whole kitchen table would be piled with finger foods, dips and other edibles. They had a ‘bar’ on top of the stereo consisting of fancy decorative glass bottles filled with gin, whiskey, vodka and bourbon. Once the party got started, my parents would indulge us youngins for a little while and let us run around the living room until our bedtime. There were adults sitting around the living room laughing and eating and drinking. I have one clear memory of one of those parties when I was about four. Looking around the living room I thought, “Hmmm. Captive audience. Let me dazzle them with my fancy gymnastic skills.” I went to the middle of the room and started my triple somersault routine. My imagination was like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” — I envisioned that room full of adults cheering and clapping once I finished my amazing performance. Instead when I stood up, dizzy, I was met with blank stares.  Apparently they needed more to drink.

Well, whatever you all decide to do for New Year’s, I hope it’s fun and safe! And don’t attempt any somersaults in the middle of your New Year’s Party.

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