That 70’s Chow


Shannon O'Donnell

It seems that cultural tastes in cuisine have changed a lot over the years, and mostly for the better. Nowadays, restaurants and home chefs alike regularly turn out such ‘in’ dishes as seared ahi tuna with wasabi butter or prosciutto and brie sandwiches with rosemary fig confit. I suppose we have the proliferation of cooking shows on the food network to thank for our more sophisticated palates… at least, that’s where most of my more ‘hip and modern’ recipe ideas come from!

But sometimes I crave a good old-fashioned casserole, the hallmark of my Mom’s cooking. The casserole wasn’t only a good way to use up odds, ends and leftovers, but in the 1970s, this was considered the ‘hip and modern’ way to cook!

I think most of us raised in America in that era had plenty of such meals, most of which had recipes that began with a can of ‘cream-o-something.’ My favorite was Chicken Divan, that chicken-broccoli-cheese concoction that requires a can of cream of chicken or cream of celery soup. My brother preferred my Mom’s variation on this theme… she used a can of cream of mushroom soup, and somehow combined it with chopped tomatoes and green olives and turned it into something resembling a tasty french cassoulet. The first thing I ever learned to cook was tuna noodle casserole… I delighted in telling my fish-hating brother the meat in there was CHICKEN, watching him down every bite, and then gleefully breaking the news that he had, indeed, just consumed an entire plate of TUNA! He would gag and gag at the thought, even though he’d eagerly lapped up every morsel when he’d believed it to be fowl, not foul.

My husband does not like these types of meals that begin with a ‘can-o-something.’ He’s not a fan of ‘mystery meals,’ where he’s not sure exactly what he’s eating, and what exactly IS in cream-of-mushroom soup, anyway? The fact that it comes out of the can in an intact cylindrical blob IS a bit disturbing. However, I was able to convince him to eat a variation on ‘casserole cooking’ last night…we had ‘savory crescent chicken squares,’ also one of my Mom’s old stand-bys. I have her original newspaper clipping of the recipe, cut from the paper in 1974, where it was featured as the grand-prize winner of Pillsbury’s Bake Off contest that year. Instead of beginning with a cream-o-something soup, it instead features a chunk-o-cream cheese as its base. Not much difference, right? But the combination of chicken, cream cheese, onions, pimiento, and butter stuffed in a crescent roll and baked into a decadent, high-fat little bundle of yumminess might satisfy even the snootiest foodie in your family. Said husband, in fact, ate two of them!

For this recipe and plenty of other recipes that evoke memories of ‘That 70s Chow,’ visit

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist


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