Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Recipes with a little something special, plus ancient frozen food

Seriously crunched for time and trying to turn your grading game up to 11? (Is that grading part just me?) It's time for clock watchers to get a little microwave action.

Today we have Multi-Power Microwave Cooking from Sears (1975, but mine is from the ninth printing, 1978). As you can see from the cover, this one is pretty heavy on the stews and casseroles. Even though it does have a few obligatory recipes for things like bread, cake, and "roast" turkey, these types of recipes are rather minimal for an old microwave cookbook. Maybe microwave manufacturers were finally realizing that recipes for colorless, rubbery food-pucks were not the best way to get people to use the microwave...

My favorite thing about the recipes in this book is that so many of them include special touches... That little something extra that makes me ask, "What?"

For example, I always thought dried beef was a food of last resort, something housewives kept on hand for weeks when the money was tight or they were snowed in and couldn't get real groceries.

Here, it's the special touch, used as a sauce for the chicken. I thought if you had chicken, you would leave the dried beef in the back of the cupboard, but I guess I was wrong. Either I or the cookbook seriously misunderstand something about dried beef, but I don't know which of us it is.

The special touch is not always so obvious as to be right in the title. This recipe looks perfectly fine at first:

Italian-Style Brazzoli seems to be a sped-up meat and tomato sauce. It's not exactly something nonna would approve of, but it seemed fine to me until I got to the raisins...

Then I wondered if they were a traditional part of Brazzoli, since I didn't really know what Brazzoli was. A quick Google search showed that the term mostly seems to apply to some kind of dyeing equipment for making fabrics. I did find two recipes with the name-- one copied from the cookbook nearly verbatim. The other is similar, but suggests using a slow cooker and seems to doubt the raisins just as much as I do, listing them as optional. I don't think I'm disparaging a traditional recipe here when I question raisins in spaghetti sauce....

Someone who worked on this cookbook really liked dried fruit in everything. It shows up again as a "special touch" in Sweet Beef:

How about prunes on your beef? Throw in some brown sugar, lemon, onion soup, sweet potatoes, and brown gravy mix while you're at it. I'm a little surprised we don't have a can of peaches, pineapple, and/or fruit cocktail too, and maybe some honey or molasses...

Whoever wrote this knew all my pet peeves. If it's not random and unnecessary fruit, then it's random and unnecessary condiments.

The Hot Chili Mexican Salad gets not just catsup in its microwave chili (enough to make me shiver all by itself!), but also mayonnaise. I'm not sure why the recipe couldn't have gone for, say, actual tomatoes if the goal was chili, but apparently they have to be reserved to go on at the end with the cheese and avocado. Hooray for good old-fashioned mayo-catsup chili.

I wasn't sure how I wanted to end this one, so here is a picture of old frozen foods from the end of the book.

I love looking at old packaging. I love it so much that I lose track of what's going on in a movie or TV show if the characters go to a supermarket. Manhunter is one of my favorite movies, and I am always too busy eyeing old boxes of Bran Muffin Crisp to ever fully pay attention to what Will Graham is saying in this scene.

Stray thoughts about old frozen food packaging:

Weight Watchers dinners looked scarily utilitarian back in the day. Seeing that little scale right on the front of the package and the all-business font warning that it contained sole, peas & pimento, chopped spinach, and a celery sauce makes it look like it must have been the equivalent of eating a block of hay for supper.

The Swanson dinner with its hash brown nuggets looks a lot more inviting, but the metal tray makes it a bad pick for a microwave cookbook.

It's nice that the Green Giant got a scarf when he was on packages frozen veggies. I'll bet he misses it now. Nobody cares if he freezes his sprouts off on a bag of riced cauliflower now. (And I'm baling out after that sprouts joke! Back to grading....)


  1. I can't even imagine what would happen to dried beef in the microwave!

    1. My guess would be leather if it was in there on its own! At least the sour cream and mushroom soup would keep it hydrated...

  2. I actually found and made a spaghetti recipe with raisins in the tomato sauce. Unbelievably, it actually works- though it really was at its best the day of and the leftovers did not benefit from a night in the refrigerator. Mind you, the one I made came from an actual Italian recipe book written by someone from Italy.

    1. I imagine that would help... It probably wasn't microwaved, either!

  3. The first recipe triggered flashbacks to the dreaded lemon herb chicken from 4-H. I can also see how the background in the clip of manhunter would be distracting. They don't show the characters walking forward, but the cereal boxes become canned fruit with just a hint of a Cheerios box remaining.
    As for prunes in your roast, it reminds me of the episode where Hank Hill's colon x-ray was on display at an art show. Maybe if he topped his steak with prunes he wouldn't have had that problem.

    1. Ha! Great reference. Now I'm thinking of the scene when Peggy tells Hank to eat a vegetable, so he sighs and gets a scoop of macaroni and cheese...