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Amazing! Low Cost! Frightening!

Welcome to the Mid-Century Menu where every week blah blah blah vintage cookbooks, blah blah blah interesting recipes, blah blah blah serve it to my husband for supper.

You get the idea. ūüôā

The recipe, or should I say set of recipes, that Tom and I chose this week comes from Good Food On A Budget, published by the good people at Better Homes and Gardens in 1971.¬† The basic premise of this book, as you can see from the cover, is how to make more dinner with budget ingredients in less time.¬† Which makes for fun cookin’ for me.

It was hard to pick¬†just one thing from this book because, well, everything looked¬†really interesting.¬† Apparently “budget” cooking mostly means “substitution” cooking, ¬†so essential ingredients in many recipes are subbed with the cheap alternative.¬†Which means that ingredients are being used where they really shouldn’t be. For example, in the recipe we chose for dinner, a fish fillet¬†has been switched out for fishsticks. Seriously.

Anyway, we decided on Fish Sticks Polynesian for this week’s menu because of our recent return from Aruba.¬† And what better way to keep the cheap substiution premise going than to suggest that somehow rice with pineapple and fish sticks on top of it could remind us of the food we had in Aruba. Classy.

But we didn’t want to just go this far, we wanted to go further.¬† Instead of just making the fish stick thing, we wanted to make the whole menu suggested by the book.¬† Which was fun, in a crazy way.

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“Low-cost convenience food…”¬† Ah, that phrase just warms my heart.

We decided to include everything but the soup, since it was pretty hot yesterday and we didn’t feel like eating soup before chowing down on fish stick casserole.¬† We also decided on the beets instead of the cucumbers, since I wasn’t about to waste my homegrown cucumbers on a recipe that might be a failure.¬† I can use the cucumbers on my own failure recipes, thanks very much!

So, I included the step-by-step for the main dish and¬†I will put the recipes for the side dishes at the end.¬† I didn’t take pictures of their creation because, well, these posts are already long enough as it is!

First things first. I give you…..Fish Sticks Polynesian.

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Fun, huh?  I love the carrot curls.

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It even has the carrot curls in the recipe!  Love it.

But anyway, off we go.

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The assembled ingredients.  Notice the sealed box of cornstarch.  I had to have Tom stop off at the grocery store after work to pick this up, since these recipes called for way more cornstarch than I had on hand.

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The ingredients for the sauce, waiting to be cooked.

I love cornstarch, it is almost like magic.¬† It can turn soupy ingredients into….

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…ectoplasmic goo in just minutes!

I don’t know why my sauce isn’t as yellow as there’s was. Maybe because I used a sweet, thick soy sauce instead of the La Choy variety.

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The rice, pineapple and frozen peas. I know, I know, the peas were supposed to be thawed.¬† I just forgot to take them out before hand, so they were still frozen when I threw them in.¬† I figured it didn’t matter since I was throwing rock solid frozen fishsticks on the top, right?

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The sauce is poured over the unsuspecting rice mixture.

At this point, it started to remind me a little of chinese takeout.  A litte soy sauce, a little cornstarch, some pineapple.  Almost sounds like sweet and sour chicken.  You know, the kind with the unbelievably red sauce?

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The rice mix is “spoked” with frozen fishsticks.

I have to admit, I love this presentation. So very vintage.

Now, I have to tell you a little story.  So, Tom and I were laboring away at the side dishes while the casserole cooked.  One of the last things I did, while Tom was making disgusted faces while stirring the heating beets, was painstakingly make about 6 stupid little carrot curls for the top of the casserole.  But then it came out of the oven, and guess what?

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Yup.  Finished fish casserole. No carrot curls.  I forgot them!

Anyway, we put our feast out on the table and got ready to be wowed.

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Hmm…I really need to make us some placemats.¬† The people from the Table Setting book would be so disappointed!

So, here is the spread.  Fish Sticks Polynesian, Orange-Glazed Beets and Parsley Onion Rolls.  A meal fit for company, according to the cookbook.

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Tom taking his first bite. And the reaction is….

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“What the heck is this?”

“Pineapple juice, soy sauce and veggie bullion.¬† It shouldn’t be too bad.”

“It’s not that bad its just….weird.”

He was right. The resulting mixture was just weird.  To top it off, it got progressivly sweeter as you kept eating.  I am not a fan of sweet main courses.  I like my main meal to be savory, so about four bites in I had to take a break and switch to one of the sides.  Across the table from me, Tom was eating one bite of everything and making loops around his plate.

“This is weird,” he said again, “everything actually goes together taste-wise.¬† It isn’t great, but the flavors compliment each other.”

I tried it, eating one bit of everything.  Wow.  He was right.  In a strange way, they all complimented each other.

The Verdict: Strange and very sweet, but edible.

Fish Stick Polynesian: Insidiously sweet. By the third bite, disgusting.  Needs to be eaten with other food.

Orange-Glazed Beets: I didn’t think there was a way to make canned beets worse. But there is.¬† Skip this one. Please.

Parsley-Onion Rolls: Very good. A easy idea to flavor refrigerator rolls. But the extra butter is not needed.

Coffee-Scotch Dessert: Very good. Coffee and butterscotch was an interesting combo.

And, for the finale, a shot of dessert!

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