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Fun food fads of the 1970's

By Debbie Nania

I grew up in the 70's and so many of the memories are still fresh in my mind. The 1970's was an era defined by many fads, including disco music, hard rock bands, pet rocks, smiley faces, shag carpet, bell-bottomed jeans, overalls, jogging suits, platform shoes, Famolares and Earth Shoes; afro's, feathered hair for men and women, and the Dorothy Hamill; television shows such as, Mork and Mindy, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Hawaii Five-O and so many more!


Some of my most fond memories of the 1970's center around my family and the meals we shared. I have compiled a few of my favorites and certainly most memorable.

Tater Tot Casserole was my all-time favorite dinner as a child. My mom discovered this recipe in the early 70's and gave the recipe out many times. Funny story- my girlfriend Stephanie came over for dinner and declared that she loved it! Soon, her mom, Dolores was asking for the recipe. For some reason, Steph did not enjoy her mom's version, but would goble-up my mom's. We never did know why Dolores' tasted different.

2 lbs. ground beef
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 10 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 32 oz. package frozen tater tots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Brown ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. Drain.

Spread ground beef into the prepared baking dish. Stir together soup and sour cream. Spread over ground beef in an even layer.

Sprinkle one cup of cheddar cheese over the soup layer.

Top with tater tots.

Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Tomato Aspic is a salad that has shown up at every family holiday meal that my Grandma Mila attended, because it was her specialty! I thought it was just awful as a kid, but I love, love, love it now! I remember my brother John, and I exclaiming, "Yuck! Why would anyone want to eat tomato flavored Jello?" Grandma is gone now and I plan to carry on her tradition at our holiday tables.

1 small pkg. lemon Jello
3/4 cup V-8 vegetable juice
1 small can shrimp, drained
1/4 cup chopped celery
8-10 sliced stuffed green olives
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dissolve Jello in 1 cup boiling water.  Add vegetable juice and pour into a Jello mold. Add shrimp, chopped celery, olives and Worcestershire. Mix well and place in refrigerator.

Serve over lettuce with a dab of mayonnaise on top of each serving.

Serves 6-8.

Green Bean Casserole, originally introduced in the 1950's by the Campbell's Soup Co. is still a staple on many holiday tables today. In my family, it was Aunt Joanne's job to bring the Green Bean Casserole to Grandma Ellen's for all our Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I associate that unique taste of the 70's with her and the wonderful, cozy times with my mom's large family. Grandma set her dining room table with all the leaves and added a card table or two that extended out into the living room. The kids either sat at the end of the card table or at another "kids" table set in the basement. My cousin, Gail and I would be so hungry waiting for dinner that we would gorge on the sliced carrots and black olives that were set out as appetizers, leaving us less than hungry when dinner finally hit the table!


1 can cream of mushroom soup
4 cups cooked green beans
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 1/3 cups French fried onions

Mix soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup of the fried onions. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Top with the remaining 2/3 cup fried onions and bake about 5 more minutes, until onions are lightly browned.

Mock Apple Pie is a pie that tastes (somewhat) like apple pie, and yet, there is not an apple to be found in this pie! According to Wikipedia (free encyclopedia), Mock Apple Pie, made from crackers, was invented by pioneers on the move during the 19th Century because they had no apples. Ritz Cracker Co. began promoting their Mock Apple Pie in the 1930's and continued for many years after. I remember my mom and grandma making Mock Apple Pie in the 1970's. It was the food fad of the time.

Pastry for two crust 9-inch pie
36 Ritz Crackers
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated rind of one lemon
Butter or margarine

Roll out bottom crust of pastry and fit into 9-inch pie plate. Break Ritz Crackers coarsely and fit into pastry-lined plate. Combine, water, sugar, and cream of tartar in saucepan; Boil gently for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and rind. Cool. Poor syrup over crackers, dot generously with butter or margarine and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover with top crust. Trim and flute edges together. Cut slits in top crust to let steam escape. Bake in a hot oven (425 degrees. F) for 30-35 minutes until crust in crisp and golden. Serve warm, makes 6-8 servings.

Zucchini Bread- My mom, grandma and my great aunt, Elsie all made this yummy bread in the 1970's. Zucchini bread was all the rage and what a great way to use up the abundance of zucchini that most of us had growing in our gardens. This is the original recipe that Aunt Elsie shared with us. My creative, grandma, Mila often added things to hers and chocolate or butterscotch chips were a couple of her favorite additions.

2 cups flour
  teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups zucchini (peeled, seeded, and grated)
1 cup chocolate or butterscotch chips (optional)

Beat 3 eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Stir in 2 cups zucchini and pack well! Stir in dry ingredients. Softly stir in chips (optional)

Divide between two 5x7 loaf pans.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 60 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick, inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting was another favorite of my mom and Grandma Mila's. It has always been my least favorite dessert, but I do associate a wonderful memory with it. I was 14 years old, a freshman in high school, and I had just met a new friend and begun a friendship that would last a lifetime. I invited Leslie over after school and my mom had a fresh, warm carrot cake waiting on the counter. Leslie loved it and I love the memory!

3 cups grated carrots
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 (8 ounce) package Neufchatel cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, combine grated carrots, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in eggs, oil, 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, pineapple and 3/4 cup chopped pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine confectioners' sugar, Neufchatel cheese, 1/2 cup butter or margarine and 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup chopped pecans. Spread on cooled cake.

Clam Dip and Chex Party Mix were staples at all parties in the 1970's. I remember trying Clam Dip for the first time when my next door neighbor, a thirty-something-architect- bachelor invited the neighbors to his swanky holiday party. My mom told me to mind my manners and not pig-out on the huge spread of appetizers laid out in his cool, modern ranch house. He served the dip with Lays potato chips and I had never tasted anything so good. I couldn't stop! I kept sneaking back, hoping no one would notice.

10 ounces clams
6 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic (pressed)
1 shot hot pepper sauce

Blend all ingredients together. Chill. Let set for 2 hrs. before serving. Serve with potato chips.

 For more recipes and ideas see:

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