There is nothing I love more than perusing old cookbooks with baked goods that call for a stick of oleo or goodies made out of Cornflakes or Ritz Crackers. For the most part, I stay away from overly processed foods, but I do have a fondness for Rice Krispie Treats and Ro-Tel tomatoes and Velveeta cheese dip. And if there happens to be a Green Rice Casserole or a pan of Chicken and Rice set in front of me-- made with a can of cream of mushroom soup of course -- well I'm happy to dig in.
While at Texas Antiques Week in Warrenton last month with LeAnn Stephenson, The Vintage Laundress, I found this wooden box of recipes that I couldn't resist. I think I paid 50 cents for this treasure trove of goodness packed with newspaper clippings and handwritten cards touting instructions for making everything from New England Hermits and Perfect Biscuits to Hilda's Peppermints and Skillet Chocolate Dumplings.
Now why is it that any dish with the word skillet in it always sounds more delicious?
Well my mom was on the skillet bandwagon years ago when she discovered Busy Day Skillet. This dish appeared on our table during the energy crisis of the 1970s when inexpensive cuts of beef were all the rage. (Remember the opener of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" where she is at the meat counter, rolls her eyes at the price of a steak, and tosses it into her cart? I am sharing a clip in case your TV memory doesn't go back that far.)
Basically, this dish is a macaroni, canned tomatoes and ground beef concoction, easy to make, quite tasty and very filling. But after months of savoring this this thrifty culinary invention, one day it took a turn. from then on, it often contained mismatched noodles, odd vegetables such as green beans, or maybe even a few stray kernels of canned corn. As mealtime neared, my sister and I would ask, "Mom, what's for dinner?" "Ooooh, it's Busy Day Skillet," she'd respond brightly.
Being a frugal and resourceful mom who always had dinner on the table even though she was a teacher during the day, her Busy Day Skillet was souped up with whatever might remain in the fridge -- extra spaghetti sauce, a Tupperware container of beef stew, maybe a few cooked potatoes or a even dash of rice. Basically it was leftovers wrapped in a cheery disguise -- a working mom's veritable Busy Day Skillet!