Monday, November 2, 2009

The Object of My Desire: Busy Day Skillet

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!


  1. Hello Stan!
    I'm a retro kitchen decor lover, those old cookbooks and such are wonderful finds... I have a few.
    Happy November to you!

  2. My mom made something very similar (and I do too now). She called it goulash and everything but the kitchen sink went in that skillet. I still have her old iron skillet that I use for everything right up to cornbread.

  3. Hi Stan... never mind the recipes I love that box... score for 50 cents...

    your post made me chuckle... coming from a family of 7, my mother used to make this same skillet dish... it always tasted so good... load anything with enough garlic and it's yummy in my tummy... my mother never used the tomatoes she used tomato soup so it really stuck to your ribs...

    MY BF is a recipe fiend... he loves to garage/thrift shop too... you can always find him in the kitchen section and me in the tool section... a lady asked what was wrong with this picture one day and asked if he liked to cook... I told her if he doesn't cook he doesn't eat... I am too busy in the garage...LOL

    Have a great day Stan... nice to see you popped by again... I truly appreciate your visits... xo

  4. I agree with the skillet sentiment - always, always tastes better! You gotta love a good "Busy Day Skillet!!!" I love this post and the idea - it reminds me of my own Mom!

  5. Are you Baptist? I'm convinced everything you mentioned will be laid out at the Thanksgiving dinner at the local Baptist church. Or at least after the next Baptist funeral! Indeed, I enjoyed a skillet meal or two. Our big one was ground beef with pork and beans mixed in. Yum! Thanks for the memories, Stan. ~Mindy

  6. I would have so bought that too :) I have a thing for old cookbooks and sometimes the best thing in there are the hand written recipes tucked inside...



Blog Widget by LinkWithin