Recipes that totally remind you of the ‘80s

French onion soup (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

For me, the 1980s era was one of new beginnings. I graduated college in 1981, finished grad school in 1983, got my first professional job in 1984 and quit that for a stint in Yugoslavia in 1989. I remember jean jackets and shoulder pads, classic rock hits, dirty dancing, Alice Walker and The Color Purple, Olivia Newton-John, Paul Simon and Amy Grant.

Here in the Tri-Lakes, we remember the 1980 winter Olympics, the Miracle on Ice and Eric Heiden’s speed skating triumphs. Weather was not cooperative, with lack of snow and temps varying between 50 degrees that made snowmaking on Whiteface a challenge, to frigid days when biathlon athletes had trouble shooting and more than 100 people were treated for frostbite.

Around the world, the 1980s brought the end of the Cold War. Beginning with Lech Walesa and Poland’s Solidarity movement, protests spread through other Eastern-bloc countries, culminating in 1989 with the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, the Tiananmen Square protests in China and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The collapse of Soviet-style communism led to a trend toward laissez-faire capitalism. President Reagan’s policies reduced taxes on the wealthy and corporations, deregulated stock markets, and promoted unrestricted free-markets with less government intervention. Labor was cheap in other parts of the world, so many corporations sent jobs overseas.

The ’80s also brought huge advances in technology. Computers and computer networks led to the internet and World Wide Web. Microsoft released MS-DOS in 1981, followed by the first Windows operating system in 1982. Other firsts were disposable cameras and computer games.

In science and medicine, there were huge advances in genetics, the AIDS epidemic, and the first talk of a warming planet.

In home cooking, the 1980s was an era of convenience. It brought us the microwave oven, microwave dinners, and commercial products like Jell-O desserts, pop tarts, Hamburger Helper, instant mashed potatoes, minute rice, instant oatmeal, margarine, white bread and hot buttered cheerios as an afternoon snack. Frozen yogurt and Ranch salad dressing both had their origins in the 1980s.

“Dirt Cake” was made with crumbled Oreo cookies, instant pudding, cream cheese and Cool Whip — though no actual dirt. “Impossible Pie” was impossibly easy to make, using Bisquick for a crust. Hidden Valley ranch packet-based dips became common.

Sloppy Joes, meatloaf, beef stroganoff, franks and beans, mac and cheese (from the Kraft blue box), packaged Ramen noodles, pasta salads, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, ziti, stew, pot roast, canned soups, Stouffer’s and other frozen dinners were common in many American homes.

Sloppy Joes are made with ground meat, onions, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, and eaten on a hamburger bun. Stroganoff is made with thinly-sliced sirloin or hamburger, mushrooms, onions and a sauce with red wine, beef broth and sour cream, served over wide noodles.

On the restaurant scene, global-inspired fine dining became popular, bringing us quiche (popularized by the 1982 best-seller, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche), sushi, pesto, French onion soup, Tex-Mex cuisine, Chicken Kiev, Chicken Satay and Chicken Franaise.

What do you recall eating in the ’80s?

Broccoli, Spinach or Kale Quiche


1 single pie crust, or potato nest (recipe follows)

1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) cooked and chopped broccoli, kale or spinach

2/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1 cup diced cooked ham, optional

3 eggs

1/2 cup cream, half-and-half or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon powdered turmeric, optional


Place greens in bottom of prepared crust. Sprinkle with cheese and ham, if using.

In a bowl, beat eggs with milk or cream, salt, pepper and turmeric until frothy.

Pour over greens. Set in oven at 350 degrees F and bake until set, about 35-45 minutes.

Potato Nest:

You can use this in place of a pastry crust, if you wish.

2 potatoes (about 3 cups shredded)

2 Tablespoons oil or melted butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place oil in bottom of pie plate. Swish to coat sides. Coarsely shred potatoes (peeling optional). A food processor is good for this. Place in pie plate with oil; mix lightly using hands, and pat into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees F about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and proceed with quiche recipe above.

Mushroom and Beef Stroganoff


8 oz. noodles, for serving

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 onion

8 oz. mushrooms (portobello, cremini, shitake or white button)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon turmeric, optional

1 clove garlic

1/2 lb. thinly-sliced sirloin, flank steak or hamburger

1/3 cup red wine

2/3 cup beef or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup sour cream or Greek-style yogurt

fresh thyme or parsley, for garnish


Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside (reserve a half-cup of broth).

While noodles are cooking, heat oil or melt butter in large, nonstick skillet with lid. Peel and dice the onion; add. Slice the mushrooms; stir in. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat 10 minutes or longer, until nicely caramelized.

Add garlic and chopped meat; raise heat to medium and cook until meat is browned. If mixture gets too dry, add the reserved pasta water.

In a pint jar, combine wine, broth, flour, and Worcestershire sauce. Shake well. Stir into skillet and cook until thickened.

Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt and garnish with parsley. Serve over noodles, or stir noodles into the skillet and cook 1 minute to heat through.

Serves 2 to 3.

Option: To make this dish vegetarian, double the mushrooms (and use several varieties) and omit the meat; use vegetable broth in place of beef broth.

Option: To add more vegetables, add a parsnip or carrot when sauteeing onions and mushrooms. Add frozen green beans or peas after meat browns.

Note: Wide egg noodles are traditional for this dish, but you can use any noodles. Noodles with grooves, like penne or ziti, hold the sauce better. It is also good with whole-grain or gluten-free noodles.

Left Bank Caf “Soupe a l’Oignon”

This recipe is provided by Anne Sterling of the Left Bank Caf and professor at Paul Smith’s College.

At the Left Bank Caf, Sterling cooks the onions separately so that either beef or vegetable broth can be added. The trick to a rich flavor is to caramelize the onions by cooking over a high enough heat in a heavy pot to release the sweetness and brown them well. (The onion mixture can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week).


One medium yellow onion per person (peeled and cut into medium slices)

Olive oil

Salt (kosher or sea salt)

Freshly ground pepper

Thyme (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup dry white wine per serving

1 cup of broth per serving (beef or vegetable or simply water)

1 slice of bread per serving

1/2 cup grated cheese per serving (1/4 lb) – (preferably Gruyre or another Swiss-type cheese)


Pour enough oil into the bottom of a heavy pot to cover the bottom.

Add the onions and season lightly with (good) salt, pepper and thyme.

Allow the onions to stick a little and brown then stir and continue to cook over medium-high heat until evenly dark golden brown.

Dissolve the “oniony goodness” that is on the bottom of the pot with white wine and simmer until the wine is absorbed into the onions.

Add broth, season to taste and bring to a simmer.

Fill the crocks with the hot soup, add a slice of French baguette and top with cheese.

Place under the broiler until the cheese is brown and bubbly. If you do not have oven-proof crocks to melt the cheese under the broiler, a “tartine” of cheese on bread can be toasted under the broiler separately then set on top of a cup or bowl of steaming onion broth.


Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.


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