Crescent Rolls, Mayonnaise, and Velveeta

Just for fun I'd like to talk about some foods that sound gross to me.

So I am out here dogsitting in Massachusetts, and my coworker cooks almost exclusively with mixes. As a person who cooks from scratch frequently with actual ingredients,  I didn't even know half of these mixes existed. Call me crazy - but I didn't know you could have a box of dry ingredients that makes a dish of scalloped potatoes if you just add water! How, exactly does that work? She has tons and tons of slow cooker mixes, but I am not going to judge those because they just seem like packets of seasonings. I shouldn't make fun. Her doctor is always telling her to eat healthier, and we are always trying to come up with healthy foods that she may like. But she really seems to be the type of person who judges whether foods are good or not based on what is not in them (spices, vinegar, anything mushy), than what they contain (healthy ingredients with actual nutrients).

When I was over here on my lunch hour letting the dogs out I decided to do some recognizance. My coworker's son is a good cook, and when he is around expensive balsamic vinegar and racks of seasonings seem to show up. While I ate my lunch I read a shrimp biryani recipe in my Food52 cookbook. Turmeric, does this house have turmeric? No. Oh no, food processor - do they have a blender, anything? No. Ok forget that. I could roast a chicken. Although then I might want to make stock from the bones because it is a fun, relaxing activity for me, and it seems a shame to waste the bones. Is there a sieve? No, no mesh strainers.

I decided to wander around the grocery store in hopes of figuring something out. Usually I just focus on the outside aisles of the grocery and not so much the internal aisles with more processed foods, but for fun I decided to take a look (also I had minimal equipment to actually cook anything). I used to eat a lot of Lean Cuisine when I was younger, and I always remember them being expensive, not filling, and not actually very good. I saw a California Pizza Kitchen frozen Hawaiian pizza. Does anyone know if these frozen pizzas are actually good or not? I saw Texas Toast I had when I was younger. I don't doubt the Texas Toast is as delicious as I remember (like Toaster Strudel), but I bet it is pretty unhealthy. Anyways, in the end none of these options seemed like a good idea. I got a salad from the salad bar.

But in the spirit of bad food I have got some fun recipes for you. Check out this whiz kid. Take care to especially read the "veggie pizza". We had such a good time reading this at Thanksgiving this year I was laughing until I had tears in my eyes.

Also, my coworker has the Red Hat Society Cookbook. Amazon basically gets it right: "a few too many read like they came from the back of a package. Plum Luscious Roast requires a can of plums and a box of soup mix, and the mildly sweet result tastes faintly chemical. Slap-It-Together Beer Cheese Soup tastes almost entirely of Velveeta, and In-A-Snap Crab Bisque tastes much like the two cans of condensed soup of which it's comprised." What is this "Slap-It-Together Beer Cheese Soup" you ask?

1 envelope dry packaged leek soup mix
1 envelope dry packaged French onion soup mix
6 cups plus 1/2 cup water
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1 cup beer

Combine the two dry soup mixes in 6 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, reserving the broth. In a blender process the chicken and celery soups and the remaining half cup water. Add to the broth. Add the cheese and beer. Cook over low heat until the cheese is melted. Makes 10 servings.

Ugh! Sounds awful. That is not even the worst. Even worse sounding are all the appetizer recipes that tell you to start out with crescent rolls, mix together mayonnaise and ranch mix, pour some cream of chicken soup on it, add pimientos, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, bacon and put it all in the oven at 350 for half an hour. I exaggerate. But apparently crescent rolls can be the basis for any food - it doesn't matter if it is a breakfast food, an appetizer, entree or dessert. Who knew? My first night here I read almost this whole book. I went into work the next day reporting on all the disgusting recipes. My boss said her mother is in the Red Hat Society, and that the idea is that members aren't supposed to fuss over things like food - that they have all spent their lives caring for their families, and they just want to have fun now. But I will say that you don't have to fuss over food for it to be good. An amazing caprese salad in the summer can be made with 4 ingredients and can take barely any time at all. These awful concoctions with 10 different soup mixes mixed with cream cheese on top of crescent rolls actually do take time to assemble. I don't mean to be too harsh, because some of the recipes in this book seem ok.

There is also this really weird thing where they advise to cook most things in the microwave that would clearly be better suited on the stovetop since you have to stop the microwave every thirty seconds to stir it. I was going to leave you all with one last good one, but I can't decide. I guess I feel lucky to have a collection of cookbooks that don't tell me to combine cake mix with pudding mix and cream cheese, or roll up bacon and cream cheese inside white bread and bake it. I guess I am also thankful to have a food processor - and maybe also good taste.


  1. My parents have been separated since before I was even old enough to remember them living together. I spent most of my youth spending half the week with my dad and half with my mom.

    My mom is a pretty good cook who tends to make dishes on the healthier side. We almost always had at least the smallest of gardens (sometimes a community garden plot) and she mostly cooked from scratch.

    My father could hardly be called a good cook, but he almost always at least tried, although he did use a lot of weird items I'd never use now. He frequently bought rice-a-roni and those weird lipton noodle mixes, although he'd almost always doctor them up a little bit with various add-ins. I think of him as sort of the quintessential bachelor dad.

    I'm fortunate in that my mother's cooking habits are the ones that had the greater impact on me growing up. Still, even with my dad's penchant for taking shortcuts, I appreciate that he always at least tried and we weren't eating TV dinners. I think the thing I take away from his cooking is the importance of eating dinner together as a family at the table, without the television.

  2. Well, one thing I didn't realize until reading that cookbook is that there are people who think of those soup mixes as an "ingredient" not a mix for what it is meant to be. There was a recipe in that cookbook that said "It only has 5 ingredients!" but they were all canned things like cream of mushroom soup - so yeah 5 ingredients in that they are packaged that way, not that it is actually 5 ingredients. At least he tried! I guess I was just thinking how much when you cook from scratch your house smells amazing, there is such a feeling of satisfaction, it is healthier, and despite what Sandra Lee's defenders say, it is cheaper. But the truth of it is I am sure millions of people are more like your dad and my coworker because otherwise grocery stores wouldn't be mostly filled with those types of products. The frozen entree aisle alone is enormous, that must indicate that people are buying them.

  3.'s pretty crazy. I love flipping through old women's magazines from the '50s and '60s ....the recipes all sound disgusting because they celebrated the introduction of new convenience foods.

    Like I said, that's not at all how I cook. I am very happy that I inherited my mom's style of cooking and not my dad's.

  4. That said, I do have one guilty pleasure that I only indulge in every couple of years -- the dip made with sour cream and onion soup mix.

  5. oh really? I do feel bad making fun because although it sounds all disgusting, there is the off chance it could be good. Right - this was supposed to give women more time in the day or something - but the thing is if you actually enjoy cooking and feel a sense of satisfaction you aren't counting it as lost time or something.

    1. It's nuts, right? These foods that were originally caged as being part of a feminist agenda (which was clearly just false marketing claims) have in turn led to more obesity and health problems, which is anything but empowering. The connections between women and food and feminism are so interesting to me.

  6. Yes!! I agree. especially because nowadays the whole DIY thing is seen as empowering and framed as feminist. The idea seems to be now the more you can do yourself the less you are relying on big companies to make it for you. Also if you actually care about what you eat that can be a nurturing thing that goes against the media and their pressures to not eat and be super skinny. So yeah I think home cooked meals made from scratch can go in line with a feminist philosophy - so it is funny to think about this awful food starting out that way.


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