Childhood Treats

When I was growing up, I was in somewhat of the minority among my friends as my mother had a job outside the home. It’s true that she wasn’t someone’s secretary or didn’t sell shoes at Monkey Ward’s (though that was the job she DID have when she met my father). But once my dad bought the bakery from my grandfather (and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how old I was when that transpired), she helped my dad run the business. Dad ran the back end (which included the baking) and handled the finances; she ran the front end and handled the staff. At least most of them.

Bill’s mom was a full-time homemaker, and so Bill talks about her fixing lunch every day for himself and his siblings. I don’t think she fixed anything fancy – maybe a turkey sandwich or a sandwich made from what he proclaims was the BEST egg salad ever known to man. And he always adds that she peeled the skin from her tomatoes and cut the celery really fine. For years, I thought that Wilma was trying to be fancy like Martha Stewart who probably not only peels her tomatoes, but likely turns them into rosettes. Eventually it occurred to me that she suffered from the same stomach ailments as I, and probably peeled her tomatoes for the same reason I peel mine – to avoid the fiber.

Anyway, as I try to recall my youthful years (not an easy task because I can’t even recall what’s in the Tupperware bowl that I put in my refrigerator last night), I’m certain that there was a time when Mom was home with us kids most of the time. But nearly all of my memories are of the times when we were old enough to stay alone and make our own lunches.

As I pondered this reality, I began wondering just what it was that we made for our lunches. My siblings might correct me, but I recall a lot of bologna or salami sandwiches on Dad’s yummy white bread, and opening many cans of Campbell’s soup or Chef Boyardee’s spaghetti or ravioli. Spaghettios had not yet been invented, but let me tell you, once those made an appearance, they were my very favorite lunch. That lasted until — well, frankly, I still secretly love spaghettios. Hold the little weinies and the meatballs. And don’t even try to give me the ABCs. I like the tiny little circular pieces of pasta.

As for Campbell’s soup, my very favorite was Bean and Bacon, but running a close second was Chicken with Stars. There was just something about those teeny tiny little stars that brought Chicken with Stars soup a notch up from regular Chicken Noodle soup.

A year or so ago, I ran across an Italian deli that sold little circular pasta called annelletti. Well, I immediately purchased the pasta, thinking that I would certainly be able to find a recipe to make spaghettios from scratch. I did, indeed, find such a recipe, and then scarcely gave it another thought. Every once in a while I would come across the pasta in my pantry and think, “I should make spaghettios,” but didn’t. The pasta moved from AZ to Colorado, and then moved back to AZ, still unopened.

In the meantime, I was recently at Superstition Ranch Market, a store at which I shop solely because they have the Stewart’s Diet Orange Cream sodas that I love. Remember this post? In addition to Stewart’s sodas, they also have a fairly acceptable selection of Italian products, including pastas. What do you think I found? Pasta shaped like little stars, called stelline.

Which made me think, “I can make homemade Chicken with Stars soup!” And which then inspired me to take out the the well-travelled annelletti and make homemade Spaghettios as well.

pasta-collage

I made the Chicken with Stars first, and later that week I made the Spaghettios.

The result?

The soup was a home run. The recipe, as you can see, is basically a regular recipe for chicken noodle soup, but uses the stelline in place of noodles. As for the Spaghettios, I was sorely disappointed, and here’s the reason why: Chef Boyardee’s Spaghettios are sweeter, which is why kids (and I) like them. I tried adding more sugar, but it just didn’t taste the same. If I’m going to have Spaghettios that don’t taste like the Chef’s, I would just as soon not have my base be tomato sauce, but instead, make a good red sauce of my own.

Here are the recipes….

chicken-stars-soup

Chicken with Stars Soup

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1-1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
8 c. chicken stock
2 c. chopped cooked chicken
2 bay leaves
½ t. dried rosemary
½ salt
½ t. dried thyme
½ t. black pepper
1 c. dried stelline (or other small pasta)
Process
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock, chicken, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, thyme, and pepper, and stir to combine.

Bring mixture to a simmer, the reduce heat to medium and stir in the pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. Season with additional salt if necessary.

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Homemade Spaghettios

Ingredients
15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 T. milk
½ t. onion powder
½ t. garlic powder
¾ t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 c. uncooked star-shaped pasta, or other small pasta

Process
In a small saucepan, mix ingredients (except for pasta) and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook on low until the butter melts completely. Meanwhile, cook pasta per instructions until al dente (or to your liking, remembering that the pasta will soften up more as it absorbs the liquid). Drain pasta and combine with sauce.

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First Last Shop

Yesterday I did what my sister Bec calls my first last shop for our Thanksgiving dinner. You know, the grocery shop where you carefully prepared your list, absolutely certain that there’s not a single thing you’ve forgotten.

Yesterday morning, I even recited to Bill all of the items various people are  bringing to our dinner, asking him to see if I’m forgetting some important Thanksgiving food group – you know, the sweet potatoes or the gravy or the whipped cream for the pies. He pretended to listen, but I soon saw his eyes begin to glaze over. So I released him to go back to reading his morning news and will hold him wholly responsible if we don’t have jellied cranberries. (We do.)

So, of course, I’m absolutely certain that I have everything, but I won’t. And there I will be on Wednesday looking forlornly at the empty shelves and wishing I had remembered that one secret spice that makes the difference in the pie or the mashed potatoes.

At the store, I got behind a 30-something man and his daughter who looked about 8. His basket was overflowing with All Things Thanksgiving Dinner. But as I nosily perused his basket (I had already read the front page of the National Enquirer and knew that Tom Cruise is choosing Scientology over his daughter Suri), I began noticing  things like bags of fresh cranberries, and organic milk and cream, and bags of fresh carrots and fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary and mint. There was a fresh pie pumpkin and a bag of Brussel sprouts and some fresh kale and a bag of apples.

Not a can of green beans or mushroom soup to be had. No cans of corn for the corn casserole. No pork sausage for the dressing.

Most notably, NO TURKEY. Since thinking about being a vegetarian on Thanksgiving makes me too sad, I am going to imagine that he had a fresh organic turkey that has been fed nothing but acorns, hickory nuts and crabapples on order from a farmer in nearby Brighton, and he and his daughter were stopping there next (well, after they go home and put away the organic milk and cream).

I began thinking of that poor man getting up at dawn Thanksgiving Day and preparing a pumpkin pie from scratch without benefit of a Libby’s can or its recipe. I imagine the hassles involved in shredding the Brussel sprouts and browning the pancetta. And then there is the whole picking the pinfeathers from the fresh organic turkey. He will NOT be watching the Macy’s Day parade.

Jen sent me this following text a few days ago: I am watching Giada’s Thanksgiving show. She says the side dishes need to be fun and playful as that will make them conversation starters at the table. She ended her text with an appropriate disgusted emoji.

Fun and playful?  Every Thanksgiving of my life, I have had a green bean casserole. You know, canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, French fried onions. If you’re feeling really devilish, you can add a dash of soy sauce. This year I outsourced the vegetable to one of my guests and didn’t specify what kind of vegetable. If there is no green bean casserole, that will cause me not a moment of angst.

I found this photo on Campbell Soup's web page. It looks like nobody's green bean casserole ever.

I found this photo on Campbell Soup’s web page. It looks like nobody’s green bean casserole ever.

And I certainly hope that the conversation at our dinner table will be more interesting than a playful kumquat side dish.

Oops. Just remembered that I forgot to buy evaporated milk for my pumpkin pie. Time for my second last shop.

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