Carrots and Carrots

I’ve cooked more carrots in the past week than I usually do in months. But we had a ton in the fridge; now, not so many. 

Friday night I roasted some baby carrots tossed in cayenne pepper infused olive oil and topped them with toasted chopped walnuts and green onion. 

Last night I stir fried sliced carrots with celery, sesame seeds, and soy roasted pumpkin seeds. It went well over fried rice. 

Home Cooking

Everyone has that one family recipe, right? The one that means home, whether it’s a secret or everyone has their own version. The comfort food that’s always been a comfort food.

My paternal grandmother was my only grandparent who really enjoyed cooking, and the one dish I remember her making more than once is her strawberry-rhubarb pie. She didn’t have a recipe, she just made it, and it makes me happy to think that I’m like her in that respect.

My mother’s specialty–at least, my favorite–is chicken curry crepes. Oh em geez, chicken and onions and celery in a creamy curry sauce wrapped in crepes and drizzled with butter. Love love love.

But that one dish is my stepdad’s tuna casserole. At my parents’ house, it’s his and only his. My mom never makes it. And since he knows how much Ian and I love it, he makes it nearly every time we come visit. He uses Da Vinci wagon wheels, which are, I agree, the best choice. Just exactly the right number of the spokes fill up with saucy goodness. And he usually tops half with sharp cheddar and half with mozzarella. Or one of each, when enough people are eating, because leftovers are just as tasty.

The problem with wagon wheels is that we can’t always find them here. I usually use rotini or medium shells. My stepdad usually brings a couple bags of wagon wheels when they come visit, though.

I asked for his recipe a few years ago, at Ian’s behest, but it’s morphed over time into my tuna casserole.

And now, I share it with you. Just the recipe, not the casserole that’s waiting to go in the oven as we speak.

You will need:
One package of pasta
1/2 stick butter
1/4-1/3 cup flour
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
2-4 cans of chunk tuna in water
4-8 ounces of cheese, grated
A sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s, or just salt and pepper for you Yankees

In a large pot, put enough water to cook the pasta of your choice. While that’s heating, melt half a stick of butter in a medium to large skillet over low heat. Once it’s melted, whisk in the flour. Keep whisking, not necessarily constantly, but fairly often. You will smell it when it’s ready, an amazing nutty goodness.

Your water’s probably boiling now, so throw your pasta in and salt it.

Slowly pour the evaporated milk into your roux, whisking away. It will be lumpy. Keep whisking.

It will be thick. Don’t worry. You want it to look like pudding. Turn off the heat.

Carelessly drain the tuna. A little extra water will thin the sauce. Shoo the cats who think you’re treating them. Dump all that tuna on top of the sauce.

Pasta’s done, right? Carelessly drain that, too. I mean, as soon as it’s in the colander, put it back in the pot. You want a tad of pasta water in the sauce as well, so don’t shake it before re-potting. Set your noodles aside for the nonce.

Back to the sauce. Sprinkle your Tony’s on. I don’t put much in because it’s better on. As in after plating.

Here’s my secret ingredient: Parmesan. Just a little bit in the sauce adds so much. Shredded is great, but green can is good. Parmesan is my favorite cheese. A nice wedge of good Parmesan is such an amazing snack. Or meal. Don’t judge.

Gently fold the tuna and parm into the sauce. Or not so gently, but surprise big chunks of tuna are a major part of the tuna casserole experience. Once it’s mostly homogenous, pour the sauce into the pot of pasta. Again, fold gently (or not).

Lubricate a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick spray, then spread your mixture into it in an even layer.

Now for the biggest decision of your life. What cheese with which to top? Tonight we have about three ounces of Colby Jack followed by about three ounces of a Mexican four-cheese blend. I don’t hate on pre-shredded cheese, especially now that it’s either the same price or cheaper than block. Besides, if it’s me plus a grater, there will probably be blood (I keep it out of the food). Not to mention that you’re making a casserole, that red-headed stepchild of dinners everywhere. But hey, to each his own. If you’re grating, do that first. I should have said that earlier, huh? Sorry about that evil laugh.

If you’re eating now, pop that bad boy in a 400° oven until the cheese is the color you like it. If you’re eating later, cover it with a towel and let it cool down before lidding it up with a lid, foil, whatevs, and throwing it in the fridge. When you’re ready, put the cold casserole in a cold oven, then turn it to 400° for 40-50 minutes.

Et voila! If you can, let it rest for 5-10 minutes. If not, don’t burn your mouth. Cut it into squares or hexagons or whatever and enjoy!

One more tip: I have perfected the art of the tuna casserole smash. Once I have my plate, I squish the whole serving with my fork before liberally applying more Tony’s. It just tasteses good that way.


Rainbow Finger Jello

Last weekend I was browsing and came across this recipe for layered finger jello and decided that was what Abby and I would do tonight while Ian was at work.

And we did.

We used two boxes of strawberry and one peach between the sweetened condensed milk layers.

While the end result is certainly pleasing, the construction was a long, drawn out process interspersed with many viewings of fancy gelatin recipes on YouTube. Man, there are all kinds of neat ideas!

Back to our project–it took the first four layers longer to set than I’d expected, but then, I’ve never made jello in this fridge before, so I don’t know why I had expectations to begin with. Still, the more layers, the faster they set, and I was cutting and serving a mere five hours after we started.

I recommend it when you’re doing something that will require frequent short breaks, like editing. Maybe give it a shot in December after you’ve won NaNoWriMo! Who’s joining us this year?

Smarties Cupcakes

One of my fellow assistant managers is currently on leave after her hip surgery a couple weeks ago. On her last day, I brought her Smarties cupcakes.

I don’t really have a good picture of these guys, but they were definitely tasty.

I think I used this cupcake recipe, and I added a few shakes of True Lemon and True Lime, and three packets of True Grapefruit.* They smelled so good in the oven!

To the butter cream frosting, I added one packet of True Grapefruit and slightly more lime than lemon.

They came out even better than I’d hoped for, highly reminiscent of Smarties, sweet, but not overpoweringly tart. I was very pleased!

The cupcakes were a hit, and I’m committed to another batch for a friend/coworker’s birthday in a couple of months. Yum!

*True Lemon has not compensated me in any way, I just love their products!

H is for Home Cookin’

H has stood for so many things between yesterday and today, but oh my, I have to use it for this.

We’ve had this broccoli in the fridge, see, and now buttermilk left over from my mom’s lemon custard pie, so I went to google. Whaddaya know, broccoli and buttermilk!

Sounds disgusting, right? I mean, the title is (An Affront to) Good Taste: Long-Cooked Broccoli with Buttermilk. But it’s not. It’s so, so yummy by itself and over spaghetti. Abby’s on her third helping, even after the raw broccoli florets and cold roast chicken she had for dinner earlier.

However, pretty it is not.

While I was waiting for the broccoli to cook into nothingness, I fell down the rabbit hole of recipe links. And found this least popular recipe ever, which is even less photogenic. But I haven’t had anchovies in years, and now my tummy is screaming for them.

They’d be fabulous in this broccoli.

To think I’d originally planned barbecue chicken sandwiches, which are currently hot in the crockpot waiting for Ian to get home from work.

I blame SRB for getting me craving pasta.

Naan for the Sickies

Ian and Abby have been coughing, sniffling, and sneezing for about two weeks now, but I managed to stay out of it.

Until yesterday, when I woke up a little snotty. Today I just feel cruddy, but I know I’ll only feel worse if I stay in bed.

So I decided to make naan. I’d never tried it before, but ever since seeing it here last week, it’s been in the back of my mind.

Man oh man, this stuff is awesome!

Crusty, fluffy, chewy, buttery, full of good bread flavor.

And it really wasn’t as labor-intensive as I feared it would be, although more than my two square feet of counter space would have been nice for rolling it out.

Four fit nicely on my griddle. I think this is going to be made a lot more often. Abby will have tons of fun helping me roll them out…then we can devour them with some vegan chili while Ian’s at work.