Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grand Prize, My Foot

Its the final day of fish month! Its the final day of fish month! No one is happier about this fact than me.

To celebrate this occasion, I have been planning a very, very special fish recipe. In fact, this recipe is so special - it actually won Grand Prize in the 1971 Weight Watchers Magazine Gourmet Contest. So you know it is fantastic. Right?

Developed and submitted by Mrs. John E. Kelley, the Grand Prize winning Chinese "Egg Roll" recipe contains the following ingredients:

2 tbsp finely chopped celery
1/2 tsp instant beef broth mix
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp chopped canned mushrooms
2 tbsp chopped canned bean sprouts
2 ounces chopped cooked shrimp
2 ounces flaked cooked crab
1 slice white bread
1 cup water

The recipe starts out like many other Retro WW recipes: boil celery, combine remaining chopped ingredients in a bowl, and wait for further instructions.

I should have stopped here

This is where it gets tricky. I don't know if it was me or the annoyingly vague instructions, but I really botched things up. Bad.

I was supposed to soak the bread in water for 1 minute and then brown it in a skillet for 10-15 minutes. According to Mrs. John E. Kelley's plan, I should have been able to press bread firmly with a pancake turner, pressing it firmly until it became pliable, slightly elastic and transparent. Then roll it out as thin as possible between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Uh huh. Here's how mine turned out:

The point of no return

It got stuck to the skillet, tore in half and then bunched up like an accordion. Oh - Then I dropped it on the floor.

For my second attempt, I simply took a slice of bread and rolled it flat with a rolling pin. I had no other choice-- I wasn't about to try cooking the watery bread again, and I had a bowl of canned fish and vegetables that had to be rolled up in something.

So I rolled it up, pinned it all together and stuck it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Here's how it turned out:

Vegas, baby

This recipe won Mrs. Kelley an all-expense paid trip for 2 to the fabulous Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Really? Five days and five nights in Vegas for rolling some chopped veggies and canned fish in a slice of wet bread? Am I missing something here? Oh--and just to rub salt in my wound, I read in Mrs. Kelley's bio that she actually had to gain 5 pounds just to join WW, because she was below the minimum allowable joining weight. Come on! She's Super Skinny! What's that all about?

Curse you, Mrs. John E. Kelley and your perfect hair

Well get ready, Mrs. John Kelley--because now that fish month is over, I'll have plenty of time to sample some of the other recipes that were submitted to the 1971 WW Magazine Gourmet Contest but didn't nab the top spot. And watch out, because Mimi and the Retro WW gang will decide who the "real" winner is. Oh yes we will.

Next up: Second Prize Winner "Macaroni" and Cheese Casserole. Hint: there is no macaroni in this recipe. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Good Intentions

It happens to the best of us. We try to follow the Retro WW rules to a tee, only to get tripped up by some little snag - and then everything goes straight down the tubes.

Take today for example. I dug out my February 1970 issue of Weight Watchers Magazine. You remember the one with the 51 prize-winning recipes? Still don't remember? Does the name Mrs. Gerald Abramowitz ring a bell?

Anyway--I am currently obsessed with this issue and have been cooking up a LOT of these prize winners. I don't know why, but they have just been appealing to me lately. NOTE: Stay tuned - as soon as fish month is finally freaking over, I have BIG PLANS for this little magazine.

So today, I decided to toss together one of the "Honorable Mentions" from the top 51 recipes of 1970. A fresh little lunch dish called "Tuna Salad in Orange Cups" sounded perfect for a lazy Sunday - easy, cool and breezy. It was also just one serving and very light. No cooking involved either! Woohoo!

As instructed, I cut off the top of an orange and scooped out the innards. I then began to assemble the following ingredients:

4 ounces flaked tuna
2 tbsp chopped orange pulp
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp chopped cucumber
1 tbsp chopped green pepper
1 tbsp chopped pimento

But then there was one final ingredient that made me cringe in horror: One heaping tablespoon of Tomato Sauce. Ohhhhh Fuuuuuuuudge!

Now, at this point, those of you who have never been privileged enough to follow the Retro WW Program are probably thinking, "What's the big deal, Mimi? Crack a jar of Prego and get on with it, girl!"

But here's the snag: One does not use canned or jarred tomato sauce on the Retro WW program. Ever. Never ever. It is "illegal".

We must make our own sauce. Legal sauce. Here's how...

Combine the following in a saucepan:

1 1/2 quarts tomato juice
3 tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp basil
1/8 tsp dill weed
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Cover over low heat and simmer for 2 hours until mixture is reduced by half.

That's right I said simmer for TWO FREAKING HOURS!!! Son of a biscuit eater! Who has that kind of time?

OK. So I admit this recipe caught me off guard. I am fresh out of legal tomato sauce and, well, I really don't know if I want to wait 2 hours just to get the tablespoon of sauce I need for this recipe.

Tomorrow, I swear to Jean Nidetch, I will whip up some legal sauce. But, just for today. Prego it is...

Oh by the way--this recipe was submitted by Mrs. Lorraine B. Manley of East Hartford, CT. Well done, Mrs. Manley. You really earned that Honorable Mention. Next time, maybe you could add more weird crap to your recipe. The flavor combination of tuna, celery, orange, cucumber and tomato sauce just wasn't freaky enough for me. Bleh.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wiggle It. Just a Little Bit.

Isn't fish month over yet? Cripes. Whose bright idea was this anyhow? I am fresh out of fish dishes. For real.

So what do you do when you are desperately searching for an interesting, easy Retro WW Recipe? Where do you turn? You whip out your collection of WW Hot Stuff pamphlets from 1978, of course! They will never let you down.

Here's the gem I found today:

Tuna Wiggle

1 slice white bread, crumbed
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 packet instant chicken broth
4 ounces canned tuna, drained
4 ounces cooked peas
2 teaspoons diced pimento
1 teaspoon dehydrated onion flakes

Place bread crumbs, in saucepan with water, milk and broth mix. Cook over low heat until thick. Pour in blender and process until smooth. Pour back in saucepan, add remaining ingredients, and cook until heated through.

In the world of Retro WW, a very "special" recipe comes along every so often. In such recipes - you already know they are going to end up down the garbage disposal even before you start to make them. But you make them anyway, for some reason. Tuna Wiggle was one of those recipes. From start to finish it had me gagging. It didn't taste like much of anything actually. In fact, I found it to be a tad boring and bland. And it certainly did not live up to its exciting name. But the texture, the odor and the overall appearance made it just plain unappetizing.

So I did something I'm not proud of.

I added blue and red food coloring to it, and tried to make it purple.

That, of course was a total disaster. Why would a person do such a thing, you ask? What kind of maniac would take a perfectly good bowl of tuna, peas and bread crumbs and turn it into a purple casserole from Hell?

Well my friends: Did you try to eat a Retro WW Tuna Wiggle for lunch today? No? Then don't judge me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Apologies to Barnes & Barnes

If you are a forty-something card-carrying member of the early-80's "I Want My MTV" generation, you are totally going to get this post. If not, I apologize in advance for the obscure reference. The answers to your questions can be found through a quick Google search, though. Enjoy.

Fish Balls, Fish Balls
Roly Poly Fish Balls
Fish Balls Fish Balls
Eat Them Up. Yum.

In the Morning
Laughing Happy Fish Balls
In the Evening
Floating in the Soup.

Ask a Fish Ball
Anything You Want To
They Won't Answer
They Can't Talk.

I took a Fish Ball,
Out to See a Movie,
Didn't Have to Pay
To Get It In.

Fish Balls Fish Balls
Roly Poly Fish balls
Fish Balls Fish Balls
Eat Them Up. Yum.

Eat them up. Yum!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gone Fishing

Ever since my mom picked up a set of super-cute mini fish molds for me at a local flea-tique, I have been waiting for an excuse to put them to use. This is why I have decided to kick off Fish Month with a super awesome Shrimp & Salmon Mold courtesy of the 1974 Weight Watchers Recipe Cards - #18 Fish Spectaculars Category.

Alas, my little copper fishy friends -- your day has finally come.

As luck would have it, there was one envelope of Knox Unflavored Gelatine in the pantry today. So I dissolved it in some water and stuck it in the blender with a cup of buttermilk, some lemon juice, vanilla extract, butter flavoring, and crushed ice. Oh--and a couple drops of yellow food coloring for good measure.

OK-Let's just pause for a second. As with any other Retro WW recipe that starts with combining ingredients in a blender with Knox Gelatine, there are two things you need to know:
  1. The smell is AWFUL. And I don't mean like, "Ew that's kinda smelly." I mean it's like, "Did someone just open the gates of Hell and conjure up an evil, rotting carcass?" Like that.
  2. It looks like something frothy that a sick animal would leave on the carpet, but you're not really sure which end it came out of.
Got it? OK. Now we can continue.

As instructed, I poured the mixture into a large bowl and combined it with 6 ounces of cooked shrimp and 6 ounces of cooked salmon.

You can now serve the dish as is. (Really?) Or it can be allowed to chill in individual molds until firmly set, and unmolded onto a bed of greens. I chose the latter option, because the former resembled a bowl of chunky bile.

Plus, I really wanted to use my adorable new mini molds!

Here they are all lined up & getting "gelly" in the fridge:

And here's the final product:

I have to admit, I was pretty creeped out by these little fishies. Maybe it was the beady little eyeballs I fashioned out of pimentos. Maybe it was the Frank's Red Hot I poured on top, making the whole thing look like a mini-fishy massacre. I really don't know.

They didn't taste bad. But I think I'll be having nightmares about these slimy little guys for quite awhile.