Tuna Noodle Casserole

tuna noodle casserole.

This is a phrase that is used almost as a parody of itself; the iconic food that no one wants to eat. The epitome of an era of convenience casseroles where processed comfort food reigned supreme before kale and cauliflower were popular.

But I actually like it. Fortunately, so does mister.

I debated whether or not to post this; is it weird that I’m embarrassed to make and eat a certain food?

  • canned tuna (this is the only item that wasn’t store brand, definitely the most expensive ingredient)
  • canned cream of mushroom (the cheaper the better)
  • ritz crackers
  • egg noodles
  • frozen peas

I did the math on Peapod.com: $17.13 for this casserole and that will leave you with four extra sleeves of Ritz crackers. With approximately 8 servings you’re looking at $2.14 a serving. There are carbs, proteins, something green. Sure there’s enough sodium for a few days, and maybe you don’t need the extra preservatives, but for a comforting bowl of noodly goodness its well worth it.

Cook the noodles, mix with the rest of the ingredients, top with crackers and cheddar cheese.

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Serve with a salad so you feel slightly better about the creamy, carb laden goodness you’re about to ingest.

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What food don’t you want people to know you eat?

 

Leftover Salad Surprise

Leftover Salad Surprise is what I like to treat myself to most work days.

Here’s how to build it:

  1. Grab a tupperware that looks too big.
  2. some greens
  3. any leftovers you don’t mind eating cold

 

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Yesterday this included baby spinach, leftover grilled vegetables, stuffed grape leaves (canned, Trader Joes), pitted mixed olives, grape tomatoes, and a snack pack of hummus.

Hummus is a great substitute for salad dressing, especially in a travel situation. No drippy oil on your work shirt, no spilled balsamic in your car.

 

Is this a thing?

I made an eggplant dish last night that I felt like I created. But at the same time I think its sort of already a thing?

Thinly sliced [peeled] eggplant layered in a casserole dish with breadcrumbs, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic, and shredded mozzarella.  I guess its sort of like lazy eggplant parmesan? In casserole form. Hm….

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Little sister stopped by just as dinner was ready, she’s visiting from VA for older sister’s wedding reception. Check out how happy her puppy is!

I had my eggplant with some oven baked zucchini (olive oil + salt + pepper) while Mister had zucchini and some of those meatballs I had baked up.  This was an easy dinner to put together, and I’m sure we’ll have the leftovers for either dinner or lunch another day.

Little sister pointed out how well my casserole dishes fit in in my kitchen. Our house is from around the 50’s – and hadn’t been all that updated when we moved in. So yes, my inherited casserole  dish collection finally has a true home! Its fun to think about the different dinners, holidays, and people that have moved through my kitchen.

Weekly Prep

This week’s meal prep wasn’t exactly inspired or nutritionally advisable. But it made the kitchen smell good, it wasn’t difficult, and I’ll have a few meals on hand to prevent quesadillas from hitting the dinner rotation too many times.

084 First up was greens and beans in the slow cooker.  This is technically a Cuisinart Multi Cooker , and I’m forever greatful for this gem we received as a wedding present. It can sear, simmer, slow cook, and even has a self storing cord.  In short, I love it.

I soaked a bag of white beans in water overnight. Drained and then covered with fresh water, two leftover chicken thighs,and a ton of garlic. Slow cook for 5 or so hours, then added chopped up escarole, roasted garlic seasoning, and italian seasoning.  Raised the heat to simmer for a few hours and then voila:

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I mean – how could you not want to eat that?

I packed up individual servings with some extra greens to be eaten for lunch as a soup. The rest will be added to pasta dishes throughout the week for dinner. What I appreciate most is that this is an incredibly cheap batch of food to put together.

  • Two chicken thighs leftover from a rotisserie chicken ($4.99)
  • garlic ($2.29 for 5 bulbs – don’t  need that many)
  • bag of dried great northern beans ($1.39)
  • 2 bunches of escarole ($2.29 each / $4.58 total)
  • Water
  • Spices you have on hand

$13.25 for nearly 4 quarts. (prices based on PeaPod) That’s $3.32 a quart. or roughly $1.65 a serving.

Don’t worry, I’m not making Mister eat beans for six meals straight.

He got meatballs.

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While I prefer meatballs that are pan fried and then baked, Mister likes them soft and squishy from being slowly cooked. We do them his way, since its the easier way.

With the slow cooker filled with beans, I pulled out two Corningware casserole dishes (that match the general decor of my dated kitchen very well). There’s about 9 meatballs in each dish, snuggled in with some Trader Joes sauce that I found in the cabinet.

082I love that the label is so bright and the High in Vitamin C notation – its like pasta sauce for children. But with booze. and Organic? There’s a lot going on there.

I cooked these in the oven at about 300 for a while – honestly I sort of forgot they were in the oven at all. When Mister came in from doing some car maintenance and yard work (with the weather finally above freezing he was pretty excited) and appeared to be starving, I was able to plate up some pasta and meatballs.

In the fridge I’ve got cooked brown rice pasta (Trader Joes), cooked spaghetti squash,  and brown rice. I also have baby spinach, eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms in the fridge, with some frozen veggies in the freezer. With all that on hand, we should be able to breeze through a few days without having to do too much.

This week Mister and I have slightly busy schedules, plus my younger sister is driving up from VA for the week to celebrate my older sister’s wedding reception this Saturday.  With all that in mind, I’ll be thankful for my warm bowl of beans and greens.

The obvious, the easy, and a view.

 

The obvious:

Hot lemon water.

Its so good.  Boiling water + lemon wedge.

I always saw Real Housewives ordering this and assumed it was some awful diet trick like chewing on ice cubes or someone saying, “celery is a delicious snack.”  But its actual something I really like. Why is this not more of a thing?

The easy:

Reheated protein pancakes.

Trader Joes pea protein powder + mashed banana + liquid egg whites + Penzy’s baking spice + almond milk.

I baked up four servings of these earlier in the week, and then just kept the container in my office fridge for an easy grab and eat breakfast. I like to warm them in the microwave with a handful of blackberries; once heated I can smash the blackberries right on top and its like an instant sweetener/syrup.

The view:

New York City and an icy river.

My job requires me to travel around the area (mostly Manhattan, but I cover NY, NJ, CT, and have looked at jobs in PA and VA as well – have request will travel). This picture is from a construction site of a residential apartment, imagine waking up to this?

Clean and Easy

Per my last post – I’m back on track and this is a very determined train.

Last night for dinner was lean, green and easy.

Left is Misters: bbq chicken, butternut squash, roasted broccoli

Right is Mine: butternut squash, roasted broccoli, mushrooms, kale

I turned the oven on to about 350 degrees while I waited for Mister to get home. Tossed the broccoli in some olive oil, salt, pepper and put on a foil covered pan. Put the chicken in a Corningware (or oven safe dish) with about half a bottle of Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce. Bake 30 ish minutes.

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Meanwhile I got to play with these cuties I found the other day:

They’re like crinkle cut fries – but squash. I’m clearly a child because the shape alone was what sold me. I steamed them on the stove, and then tossed with a handful of random seasoning.

I ate a handful before they even made it to the plate, they were that good. Mister, however, thought they were the worst ever and didn’t eat more than a forkful. Poor guy – he might have supplemented his dinner with some macaroni and cheese. I swear I tried to make him a healthy dinner, I really tried.

This morning for breakfast, I had a little extra time before a morning work meeting so I made a smoothie bowl. These are a craze, just like the ACV drink and juice cleanses – but I’m telling you smoothie bowls are actually fantastic.

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Make a smoothie without as much liquid as normal – so its thicker. Then top with whatever sounds good. Eat with a spoon. Ta Da – you’ve got yourself a smoothie bowl!

This morning for the smoothie I did:

half of a frozen banana + little less than a cup of orange juice + 2 scoops of Trader Joe’s Pea Protein Powder + 3 frozen peach slices + 2 big handfuls of spinach.

For the topping:

chia seeds, coconut flakes, granola, and walnuts.

Crunchy, sweet, filling. This was my first time going full fruity – my past few experiments may or may not have involved a chocolate smoothie and chocolate chips.  See what I mean about getting back on track?

 

Meal Prep

It was a deep rut.

Christmas, New Years, Snow Storm. Flannel pajamas, baggy sweaters, cheese, wine. Christmas cookies, french toast, more cheese.

How to break the deliciously cozy cycle when New York has been colder than Alaska lately?

ACV.

Apple cider vinegar. Its a little routine that I can never stick with too consistently (despite my best efforts), but its a great way to jump start a little nutrition and pry yourself away from caramels and Camembert.

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8 oz of cold water, squeeze half a lemon, 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Drink this before you start breakfast, while you’re getting ready in the morning. Before coffee, before brushed teeth, before the stretchy pants get too comfortable.

It may be psychological, total placebo affect – but for me personally, it curbs my sweet tooth and allows me to hit the reset button my nutritional intake.

While I sipped my ACV, I cooked a big batch of food for the coming week to allow myself to really trudge through the winter apocalypse with some vitamins and hopefully a few less pounds in the stomach area.

Quickly Quiche

Bisquick is as close to magic as I’ve ever witnessed.  Please don’t explain what it is and why its not perfect because that would be like telling a child there is no Santa. Bisquick is perfection. Leave it alone.

Mix some up with some milk and spoon it over a bubbling pot of chicken/veggies/and cream of chicken – ta da, instant chicken and dumplings.  Or you can make actual biscuits with it pretty instantly.

New Years Day I discovered the Bisquick quiche and my mine was blown yet again. Bisquick + eggs + milk + cheese + broccoli = quiche.  IT MADE ITS OWN CRUST.

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Of course I didn’t take any pictures of it on New Years Day, I didn’t know how special it was. It was only while eating it every day since for breakfast or lunch (hence the keyboard in the background of that picture) that I got to bask in its glory.

Soft crust on the bottom. Fluffy/cheesy center. Crispy browned topping.

There are a million recipes available via Google, but I used this one. I didn’t use any bacon, and used about half a bag of frozen broccoli. I would love to try some different cheese/veg combinations next time. You bet your butt there will be a next time. Next times. Multiple.

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New Year New Tradition

In my last post I noted that Mister and I eat the same dinner every year on New Years Eve. We didn’t really have a tradition for New Years Day – which seems to be the day everyone universally has off (except for my Mom this year, sorry Mom!).

With the long weekend of no plans, I knew I had some time to put together a decent brunch and liked the idea of starting a new tradition that’s all our own.  We invited my sister and her husband, and Mister’s brother and his wife – which is just about the top number of people that can fit in our kitchen. Did I mention that our house is tiny?

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Here’s everything just before we started, I’m incredibly proud of how well everything turned out. My list-making abilities paid off – as did the discovery that my magnetic notepad that I normally stick to the fridge can be stuck to the metal backsplash between our stove and the vent.

The complete menu:

Growing up Jewish, I have it ingrained in me that sweet foods should be eaten around the new year based on the idea that sweet foods are eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The night before I started the baked french toast, and the pea salad. I don’t want to give away all the family secrets, but my Aunt Resa’s pea salad is one of my favorite things to eat on holidays. This was my first time attempting it, and it was the perfect acidic counter balance to all the sweet.

I’ll give you the recipe, but promise to give Aunt Resa the credit please.

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Mix one bag of frozen peas with one can of drained chickpeas.  Pour an entire bottle of italian dressing on top.  Let sit overnight, drain well before serving and toss with redskin spanish peanuts.  Enjoy! Its crunchy, tart, a little sweet from the peas. We’ve eaten the leftovers as a snack or even a light lunch.

While everyone was arriving I made sure we had a cheese plate out, nothing fancy, but an opportunity to use the monogram marble cheeseboard we received as a wedding gift.  Aren’t weddings fun?

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And of course, what would a New Years Day brunch be without a champagne bar?

 

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The Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail started a conversation about how I am a sucker for all things seasonal. If you put up a sign that says “Limited Edition” I will most likely buy it, for no other reason other than it is seasonal and/or limited. This is how I ended up with Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.  I don’t even eat regular cheerios. And yes, they were as bad as you would think.

This Winter Wassail though – incredible stuff.

Even if you’re not a songbird, Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail is so festive, you may find yourself spontaneously bursting into carols of the season with every sip. Our Winter Wassail was modeled after the spiced beverage enjoyed during 12th century Christmas celebrations. Years later, we’re still impressed by the drink’s ability to turn humbug feelings into holiday spirit. A sweetened blend of black currant, apple, and lemon juices produce a punchy punch. The cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and orange peel punches it up even further. Enjoyed hot or cold, the flavor and aroma will instantly kindle feelings of holiday cheer. It’s a merry mixer with red wine, simmered on the stovetop and served steaming. Winter Wassail will be with us through the holidays. If merriment is your manifesto, you’ve met your match. Each 64 fluid ounce bottle is $3.99, until the last carol is sung (or we run out).

The ingredients are pretty straightforward:

INGREDIENTS: WATER, CANE SUGAR, APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE, BLACKCURRANT JUICE CONCENTRATE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SPICES (CINNAMON, CLOVES, NUTMEG, CARDAMOM, GINGER), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, ORANGE PEEL.

Weirdly enough, that list turned a few people off – whom were pleasantly surprised by the actual juice once trying. Its like a holiday spiced cranberry juice.  More sweet and spiced than tart.

I love those champagne coup glasses more than anything. How can you not feel incredibly fancy while drinking from them? Its as if they require me to throw on some kitten heels while I slice up some snacks.

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Cheers to new drinks, to new family, to new traditions. Happy New Year!

New Years Eve Tradition

Everyone has their traditions for New Years Eve – their ideal evening for ushering in a fresh start.

Last New Years Eve was our first weekend sleeping in our new home. Mister’s brother and sister in law came over for dinner to celebrate our move and the new year all at once. This meant a scramble in the kitchen to find plates (we did not own one matching set), learn how the oven works (we’ve since purchased an in oven thermometer), and decide how to best accommodate more than two people in our small eat in kitchen.

It has been an entire year since that impromptu dinner and thinking back I’m so happy with how far we’ve come. In the past 12 months, our house has become our home. We’ve been blessed with wedding gifts of matching sets of dishes, serving ware, and stemware. And we’ve gotten much better at making other people feel comfortable in our small home. I hope.

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I had ordered beef filet from PeaPod – and Mister requested twice baked potatoes. Which in reflecting on our past four New Years Eve meals – we’ve apparently always had some version of this.

My sister was quick to point out that we’ve had four sets of dishes in four years. Which isn’t exactly the case. The square plates were mine from my apartment, but there were only three plates in the set (the fourth was broken early on) so they were given up when we moved into our apartment. The blue round plates were Steve’s from his apartment, and there were also an odd number of plates, and no small plates. The blue and white anchor set were a gift from when I worked at the USS Slater – and we genuinely use for special occasions only since we have a complete setting for two. In hindsight I should’ve used them for this meal.

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Above is the set of dishes that now inhabit our cabinets.  We have an entire set of these – everything from soup plates to serving sets and I love their classic simplicity.

That phrase can also be applied to our dinner – filet topped with blue cheese and mushrooms, oven roasted carrots and asparagus, twice baked potato.

In all honesty, I don’t love twice baked potatoes. I would much rather have mashed potatoes and/or potato skins. Mister doesn’t even eat the skin so that’s an argument I bring up every year – why can’t we just eat mashed potatoes?! But its a tradition, and he only asks for them once a year so I oblige.

This blog actually gave me the inspiration for our dessert – in looking back on old posts I came across the rice pudding recipe. I hadn’t made any since that one time so I thought it would be something different to add to our menu. I did add some booze soaked raisins this time, and I loved it even more.

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How could I resist serving it up in these dishes I inherited from my grandmother? I think they’re dessert dishes – though I’ve seen in Mad Men-esque movies that they’re used for cocktails on occasion. Throw some boozy raisins on top and sip away at the rice pudding, I guess. Or not, that sounds terrible.

I had planned a cheese plate, and some appetizers as well – but we ate at around 7:30 and then I started prepping some dishes for our New Years Day brunch. By the time the table was cleared and reset, and the food all set, I took a quick nap and then it was midnight.