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What your Mom did cook when she didn't do a lot of "from scratch" cooking.

Hi all.

My mom wasn't much of a cook when I was growing up and still to this day doesn't really enjoy cooking. So as a result she never really did a lot of experimenting or making anything new for us kids. One of my most vivid memories was when my mom would add things to boxed meals, particularly hamburger helper. She liked to toss in a can of vegetables or slice up an onion and call it a day.

Now that I'm a Mom myself I do a lot more home-made cooking and will on occasion get the odd request for a boxed meal. Particularly from my son. For some reason this riles me a bit as I pride myself on being a pretty good cook. So in an effort to appease both him and myself I will make the occasional boxed meal. Funny in my effort to "juice" it up I will add fresh components to make it more tasty.... I sometimes catch myself from doing too much of a "Sandra Lee" on something that is best left in its original boxed state....

Anyone care to comment or add their two cents from their childhood experiences? Am very curious to see if anyone else had a Mom that didn't really like cooking.

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  1. She would cut up a few chicken breasts (the kind that come frozen in a giant bag) into cubed pieces and saute with some Pam. She would also make a package of chicken rice a roni. Then, she would mix the two together. That was dinner. I actually still like it though...a good comfort food for me.

    She also would do something similar with a bag of the frozen stir fry vegetables and some teriyaki sauce, add in the chicken, and serve on a bed of rice. Again, not really that bad.

    She also liked to do a taco salad that I hated but everyone else seemed to like (although to this day I don't know why)... canned beans, cooked ground beef, tomatoes, frito chips, and lettuce. The lettuce was always limp because of the liquid from the rest of the ingredients. Also there wasn't a whole lot of "taco" flavor involved.

    It's all kind of weird because my mom is actually a pretty good and knowledgeable cook, I can call her when I have questions. I have vague memories of when I was much younger when she stayed at home, and she had an extensive vegetable garden and always cooked from scratch, aside from things like fish sticks. But after I started school, she went back to work in a hospital on her feet all day, and probably was just too tired to put together anything from scratch. I also think my brother and I were picky eaters so instead of arguing with us, she would just make things she knew we liked over and over.

    5 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      Mine would do something similar with Ramen. She'd cut up chicken and saute it and then add it to ramen with broccoli and celery. I still like it ... it does make it more like real food and the other additions help make it less salty to the mouth.

      1. re: juliejulez

        My mom made a similar taco salad only she seasoned the meat and there were a few more ingredients (onions, black olives, maybe grated cheese?). And tortilla chips not fritos. It was an easy summer dinner and I liked it alot. Might need to make that myself.

        She wasn't much of a boxed mix gal.

        1. re: tcamp

          Our taco salad was ground beef with cooked with onion soup mix, cheese, lettuce, onions/scallions, and Fritos, drizzled with Italian dressing.. Salsa and olives were available to add afterwards, because I wouldn't eat it with them in there.

          I know the dressing makes it sound nasty, but I still make it on occasion today. One of my favourite childhood foods.

        2. re: juliejulez

          My Mom's taco salad was iceberg lettuce, drained ranch style beans, olives, diced onions, taco seasoned ground beef, cheese, fritos and catalina dressing.

          :)

          1. re: juliejulez

            My BFF used to make that Frito 'taco salad', with a red sweet salad dressing called Western Dressing.
            I would choke it down like a good pal, while hoping she would stop making it someday.

          2. I grew up eating Hamburger Helper meals. Mom was creative in how she made Kraft Mac & Cheese including adding tuna, or ground beef and onions, or my favorite cream of chicken soup, tomato soup, ground beef and black olives to a box of Kraft. It made this casserole'ish dish. I still love it. hah! She also made "Gravy Train" which was just ground beef cooked up and a packet of brown gravy added to it and served over rice of mashed potatoes.

            My Mom still doesn't like cooking much. I grew up eating overcooked food that was heavily salted. My parents still don't really appreciate good food and freak out if food is not well done they are convinced they will die if the food isn't completely tough and shoe leather.

            Oh well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: eperdu

              My in-laws are very similar (although there are a lot of dishes my mother in law can cook well). My husband grew up eating a lot of kraft dinner with ground beef added in. Boxed dinners were always a convenient thing that was achievable on a small budget. Unfortunately I think they are the reason my husband probably uses excessive salt on his food.

              My parents did give me some frozen foods, fish cake, chicken nuggets. They also tended to use jar sauces to save time. We did eat a lot of vegetables though and fresh untampered cuts of meat and fish. If we had pudding, it was usually a homemade crumble and quite often using fruit we had picked ourselves.

            2. My mom is an awful cook, and uses many prepared foods to minimize the time spent cooking and decrease the likelihood that she's screw up too badly.
              Some weeknight dinners were sloppy joes, which was canned sloppy joes mix (including the ground meat) on hamburger buns. Mac and cheese was either from a kraft box or the frozen section. Honestly, the closest to homemade she got was her apple pie, and she always purchased a pie tin with the crust already in it. When she did try to make food from scratch, she'd invariably overcook it or screw up the seasoning. I don't know why, but she's completely incapable of making any sort of substitution. Every now and then, it'll come out okay, when her mistakes cancel. She recently made pumpkin soup with canned pie mix rather than canned pumpkin, but she also didn't want to bother chopping up onion, so it was okay, although really just diluted pumpkin pie filling.

              But yeah... I grew up thinking so, so many things came from the freezer section. My grandma was the one who exposed me to actual food, although it tended to be simple.

              1. My mom worked too and hated cooking. I was raised on Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper (otherwise known as puke on a plate), Rice a Roni and, on a special night, Shake n Bake chicken. She gave up altogether once I was about 12 and it was frozen dinners ( Elio's Pizza was a favorite) or peanut butter from then on. Thankfully, we ate at my grandparents' house a couple nights a week.

                1. My Mom always has been a horrible cook and hates it. But at least she used to cook from scratch. We never had boxed Mac and Cheese, etc. The only thing not from scratch she cooked was when she opened up a can of spinach and heated. Growing up on the farm we always had our own beef, ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs, milk, butter, vegetables, fish and game (Dad was a hunter and fisherman) etc. so we started out with wonderful ingredients. Too bad the dishes didn't end up that way. :( Then I stepped in. Hee hee...

                  Mom always baked our breads and buns for school lunches. She was (and is) very good at that.