Tuna Melt is back!

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Comfort food is big at my house. Simple is better. In fact, SO simple, that I sometimes despair at ever being able to make “fancy” food again. So when my older daughter came home from babysitting and told me that she had a tuna melt, and it was good, I was overjoyed! Something new I could start to make without complaints from my lovely family. And it falls into the comfort food category, of which I am very fond.

Okay, tuna melts are not fancy, but I can get excited about them if they are on croissants. For now, they are on store bought croissants – – really good ones from Whole Foods bakery. Also, when I was a kid, my mom used to put Worcestershire sauce in her tuna salad. It was so good! So that is the secret ingredient. I really don’t like tuna salad without it. It adds a zing. I was curious, so I started looking around on the internet, and sure enough, Worcestershire sauce in tuna salad is a thing. So this may not be news to you, but if it is, you must try it!

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This is what you will need, plus your favorite cheddar.

Oh, if you have cats, put them outside now so they won’t bother you while you are making this. And don’t ask me how those splash marks got on the glass doors. I have no idea. I have children and cats. Preheat your oven to 375°.

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They both really really wanted to sit on that cushion.

Okay, I use three small (5 oz) cans of tuna – albacore packed in water. I like the tuna with salt added; that’s just me. Drain it, but save the water for your cats. They will love you. Orange boy LOVES tuna juice.

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I don’t really have exact measurements for this, but just put the tuna in a bowl, and throw in some mayonnaise. Just regular mayonnaise please. I don’t like tuna salad that is too mayonnaise-y, so I just put a couple of dollops in.

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Mix it lightly, but not so much that you can no longer see the flakes of tuna. I don’t like a mushy tuna salad.

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Now add the Worcestershire sauce. Like I said, I don’t have measurements, but if I did, it might be a tablespoon? I just douse the tuna with it and mix it in.

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Now chop up your celery (one stalk or so) into cute little tiny cubes. I cut the stalk in half. Then cut each half into four long strips, then chop. This may seem obvious, but really, it’s more fun to have teeny tiny cubes of celery than to have large chunks.

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Then mix in that celery. Now cut your croissants in half and place the halves on a cookie sheet with parchment paper (that makes the bottoms get nice and crispy, and makes for easy clean up). Top with the tuna salad. Okay, so I have some picky eaters at my house. One only wants the croissant :), one doesn’t like celery… Hey!!! If you have leftover tuna salad, put it in a smaller container and refrigerate it, but DON’T rinse the bowl that you mixed the tuna salad in. Just set it aside; and no, you are not saving it for the cat.

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Now top with small slices of your favorite cheddar cheese. Or another cheese if you prefer.

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Put it all in your preheated 375° oven until the cheese melts. This usually takes less than five minutes, but make sure it melts. Dear husband complained one time that the cheese wasn’t melty enough… If it’s easy to do so, switch to broil for the last minute or so to make sure the cheese melts. Here is what I like: crispy bottom, melted cheesy top, but the tuna is still slightly cool in the middle.

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Now, I like to serve this with a green salad. I get some mixed greens and put them in the bowl that had the tuna salad in it.

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Dress your salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and then turn your salad around in the bowl to make sure the tuna salad leftover bits get mixed in. By the way, in France, they don’t toss their salad, they turn it. Aller, vas tourner la salade!

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Serve and enjoy!

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And by the way, my younger daughter requested that I learn how to make croissants… now that really would be a fancy tuna melt! So stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 5 Comments

Perfect Fried Eggs

I know there are many techniques to making fried eggs – – over medium to be more specific, and until I found this one, I had many mishaps: broken yokes, eggs drift away from each other on the pan making them difficult to flip, difficult to flip anyway, yokes overdone, white underdone…

But with a good non-stick pan with a lid (preferably glass), you need never worry about these things again! No flipping necessary!

[This part right here might be extra important!! You don’t want the timing of making your toast to get in the way of your perfectly fried eggs, so here’s what you do: make and butter your toast, and put it directly on your middle oven rack, with the oven on “warm”. Do this before you start making your eggs. That way, when your perfectly fried eggs are ready, you will have hot and crispy toast ready to go! No more soggy toast!]

So here is my magic way of making fried eggs, pretty much perfect every time! First, you break the eggs into a shallow bowl that will pour easily.

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Yes, sometimes I have three. Don’t judge me.

Set your pan on a burner and heat it to medium-high. Set a digital timer (use your microwave timer or your smart phone timer if you don’t have a digital kitchen timer) for 50 seconds. Make sure to set the timer, but don’t hit “start” yet.

Toss a few drops of water in your pan. If they sizzle, you are ready to go. Don’t overheat the pan dry.

The next part needs to happen rather quickly and precisely, like clockwork. Once water drops will sizzle, put some butter in the pan and don’t be stingy about it. The butter will melt fast, and may even start to turn golden -that’s okay. Just don’t let it burn. Gently pour the eggs into your pan and put the lid on it immediately! Now hit the “start” button on your timer.

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When the timer goes off, immediately take the pan off the heat and to a burner that is not turned on, and restart the timer for another 50 seconds. Since the lid is glass (hopefully), you can kind of see whats going on in there. It’s the steam that is cooking those egg whites, so as soon as you notice that the egg whites are thoroughly cooked, go ahead and take the pan off the burner and slide the eggs onto your plate. Depending on the size of your pan (I use a 10″ pan), and also depending on whether you are making two or three eggs, this could take a bit longer than 50 seconds, or a bit less. That’s why monitoring is a good idea. The entire thing takes just a few minutes, so don’t wander off and check your email.

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Here’s what I love: a runny yolk, perfectly cooked egg whites that are tender and not rubbery, and a crisp edge. Oh yes, the crisp edge. By the way, that is curry powder that is sprinkled on the eggs. It is something that I remember my mom doing, and now it’s the way my entire family enjoys their eggs, even dear husband Matthew, who has his own technique for making eggs, which includes a lot of huffing and puffing, and maybe some swear words.

My friend Christy sent me a picture of her perfectly fried eggs. Look at the crispy edges and the runny yolk! And the beautiful blue and white plate. Eggs always taste better on a blue and white plate.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Busy-day meals, Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 12 Comments

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This is for my friend Jennifer, who wanted the recipe. This is ridiculously easy, and I got the idea from Ashley, the fabulous gal in charge of the sample booth at Trader Joe’s. I really need to have a whole blog post about my neighborhood Trader Joe’s. Stay tuned.

I had always wanted to make chicken tortilla soup, but hadn’t found a recipe I liked. When I tried the sample for this at Trader Joe’s, I loved it, and asked for the recipe. Well, here’s the crazy part. It only has five ingredients, and they might just be things you have handy. This is the perfect meal to throw in the crock pot in the morning before getting to your day.

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I feel like apologizing for the simplicity here, but let’s get serious. I’m a mom of two school-aged children, I run my own business, I teach at the gym, and I have LOTS of hobbies. I need more easy recipes. All you need is some tortilla chips, a can of black beans (drained), a 32oz container of chicken broth, a jar of your favorite salsa, and a pound or so of chicken pieces – I use four boneless skinless chicken thighs because it’s easy – no bones or skin to mess with! Dump everything except the tortilla chips in your crock pot and set it for 6 hours on low. The tortilla chips are for later. Oh, and if you use the same salsa that I use, save the jar.

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So you can make a fall candle holder with leaves from your neighborhood, like this.

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But I will tell you how to make this another time. Suffice it to say that Mod Podge is my friend. Back to the soup! After the six hours or so, pull out the chicken and shred it.

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Put it back in and make sure everything is nice and hot.

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You don’t want to put the tortilla chips in the soup, but rather, crush them and put them on top once you have served it. It’s really optional though. You can eat it without the chips if you like, but then, it’s not really chicken tortilla soup, is it?

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So, here’s where you can get creative. Serve this soup with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado slices – all these things can be done in a matter of minutes. I usually only have chips and cheese handy at any given moment though, so for simple and delicious, just the tortilla chips, and cheese if you like. Enjoy!

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Posted in Busy-day meals, Comfort Food, Crock Pot Recipes, Fun in the kitchen! | 2 Comments

Flaky Delicious Buttermilk Biscuits

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I have been working on perfecting my technique for a while now, and am very excited to share this recipe and technique with you!

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Well, there are the ingredients, but what I’ve found is that it’s really the technique that makes the big difference. Notice in my recipe above that it says 6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (or as many as 12 Tbsp!). This recipe is very forgiving, but I’ve come to believe that more butter is definitely better. So, technique, and butter. Don’t skimp on the butter.

Having a good oven thermometer is a good idea, for starters. You want to know that your oven is good and hot. Also, I like to preheat my oven for at least ten minutes, if not longer. I don’t want the temperature waffling around.

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There are few other things that will come in handy (ignore the clutter in the background). A pastry cutter, a nice heavy rolling pin, and a bench scraper all are great, and I am lucky enough to have a marble pastry board, thanks to my dear husband Matthew :). But you can definitely still make these biscuits successfully without, so let’s continue.

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Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

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Cube the unsalted butter (it needs to be nice and cold), throw it into the bowl, and toss it around a bit. You don’t want the butter cubes to be bunched up.

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Using the pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture… don’t mash the butter! Just cut it up. If you are using a pastry cutter, use a knife to remove the bits of butter that clump around the edges of the cutter.

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Here’s the thing: do this quickly, like you don’t really care about it. Don’t be fussy about it. It should end up looking pretty lumpy and floury, with lots of still pretty large pieces of butter in there. They always say to the size of peas, but I think that there should be some pieces larger than that.

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If you see a few pieces of butter that look too big, just stick a knife in there and cut those pieces in half, but don’t keep using the pastry cutter, because you don’t want to overdo the cutting in of the butter. Scraggly = delicious.

Now make a well in the center of the scraggly mess, and pour in the cold buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, stir the flour into the buttermilk starting from the outside of the bowl. Do this quickly, just until dough starts to form.

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It will end up looking something like this:

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Notice how it’s not perfect looking, and it’s still powdery looking. That is good! Now get your hands into the bowl, and with the knuckles of your fingers, press down to flatten the dough, and then flip it over. Do this a couple of times.

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Now take the whole mess and put it onto a lightly floured surface. That surface might be your countertop, or pastry board if you have one. Whatever surface you use, it should be cool to the touch so that the pieces of butter don’t start to melt. (Sometimes I take a bag of frozen veggies out of the freezer and smear the bag around on my counter or pastry board, just to be sure. If you do that, make sure to dry it well before dusting with flour.) Using your knuckles again, flatten the dough lightly and shape it into a rectangle. You might want to dip your knuckles into the flour so they don’t stick.

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Now get your bench scraper or a sharp knife, and cut the triangle into three sections. The whole thing should be messy and powdery.  I just love the way this looks.

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Now stack the three sections, using the bench scraper to lift up the pieces.

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Give the whole thing a quarter turn, and flatten it with your knuckles again, shaping it into a rectangle. Don’t go nuts about the shape being perfect, because you don’t want your hot fingers messing with it too much. I’m just showing a different angle so you can see how messy this is. Messy and beautiful.

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So once you’ve flattened it into a triangle again, cut into three sections again.

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Repeat the whole thing one more time… stacking and turning a quarter turn and flattening… do this quickly, like it doesn’t matter. Don’t let the butter know you’re worried about flakiness. You should end up with something that looks like this.

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Now, lightly flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out just a bit flatter. Mine ends up being about 3/4 inch thick.

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Now take the bench scraper or a sharp knife, and cut the edges off the dough. This is so it will rise evenly.

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And now cut into about 12 squares. You could use a fancy biscuit cutter, but I don’t think it’s necessary, and you end up with lots of scraps.

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Lifting them with the bench scraper (or thin spatula), place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Darn. I forgot to mention you would need parchment paper. Parchment paper helps things to bake evenly, and the bottoms come out nice and crispy.

You’ll end up with the scraps. Stack them, flatten them, and cut one last biscuit by cutting off the edges. Everyone says this last one isn’t as flaky, but I disagree. Somehow, this one is super delicious and flaky. It’s just misshapen and doesn’t rise evenly. I’ll eat that one.

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Now put that last biscuit on the cookie sheet, along with the scraps, which we call “crunchies” at our house. I like the biscuits to have crispy edges, so I don’t let them touch.

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Pop those babies into the oven on the center rack and let bake for about ten minutes, but do keep an eye on them. You want them to be golden on top, but not too dark, because they will dry out and won’t be tender. Here they are.

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Look at those flakes of buttery deliciousness.

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We never put butter on them, because they are so buttery and perfectly delicious as they are. We have them every Saturday with scrambled eggs. It’s our Saturday tradition.

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Wow. That is a serious close up. And they are SO good with raspberry jam.

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By the way, the basic recipe that I use is from the Joy of Cooking, but I add a LOT more butter. And a bit more salt. Enjoy!

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 6 Comments

Homemade Yogurt!

IMG_9819Making yogurt is my latest obsession. Along with pie crusts, scones, biscuits, and a few other things here and there.

This is my first post in a long time. I am still trying to figure out how to actually write a blog post on my computer – confusing!!! – but here goes.

Matthew (my dear husband) was getting tired of buying yogurt and having all of those plastic containers causing trouble with the environment, so I decided to try making yogurt myself. My friend Kristina told me how she makes hers, which was so simple and easy sounding, that I read a million blog posts on the subject, because her way was way too easy sounding.

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Heating up the milk.

The first time I made it, I slowly heated up the milk (organic whole milk) in my slow cooker, which took over two hours to get it to the right temperature! It turned out great, but I didn’t like having to keep checking on it, so this time, I heated up the milk slowly in my dutch oven, stirring frequently. This is what Kristina suggested, and in the end, I liked her way best. It still took a little while to get it up to temperature (maybe half an hour?) , but I was going to be in the kitchen anyway, since I spend a lot of time in there… Anyway, keep reading if you want to know how to do this.

The milk (one gallon, which is a lot! You can use a half gallon if you prefer.) needs to reach 180° or a bit more, without scalding. Heat it on medium heat and stir frequently. A nice heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven will heat evenly. Don’t be in a hurry and turn the heat higher, because your milk will scorch and that will not be good for the flavor. Once it reaches 180°, take the pot off the burner and let the milk cool down (stirring occasionally) to about 115° or so… between 110 and 120 is fine. That’s a candy thermometer that I used – it works nicely! If you want to cool it down faster, place the pot in an ice bath and stir, but watch it like a hawk, because you don’t want the temperature to drop below 110°.

Once the milk is between 110° and 120°, take about a half cup of the warm milk and mix it together with about a half cup of room temperature, whole milk yogurt with live, active  cultures (read the ingredients!). Mix together, then add it back into the warm milk and mix with a whisk, using an up and down and sideways motion, not a stirring motion. I don’t know why, but I read it somewhere.

Then put the lid on the dutch oven and put it in your for-real big oven, and close the door. I leave the oven light on, which generates just enough warmth to keep the bacteria multiplying. Leave it in there for a while. Last time I left it in for maybe ten hours or so? This time I will try leaving it in for just eight hours. Actually, I ended up leaving this one in for 16 hours, and it was, well, fabulous. So there seems to be some wiggle room there. I’ve heard that you can let it incubate for up to 24 hours.

Longer time = tangier and thicker… or in my experience, just tangier.

You might want to time this so it works for overnight, since eight hours is a long time. I didn’t do that this time, and the milk/yogurt is in the oven as I’m typing this. Don’t disturb it! Don’t peek at it! Just leave it in there. After eight hours (or longer!), take it out and take a look. It might look something like this:

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Magic!

This is a very exciting moment, so take it all in.

Creating in the kitchen is a beautiful thing.

Now, at this point, you can just put the pot in the fridge and let it chill. You’ll notice that there is some separation of liquid from the yogurt; that’s the “whey”. You can just stir it in. Your yogurt will be light and delicious. BUT, if you like it a little thicker, more like a Greek yogurt, you’ll want to strain the yogurt.

Put a colander into a large glass bowl. Line it with cheesecloth (I got mine at Whole Foods – a whole lot of it for just $2.99. Yes, you got that right, at Whole Foods.) Pour your yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined colander, and let the whey strain out. You can let it strain for three or four hours if you like. The more you strain, the thicker the yogurt will be. This is what mine looked like:

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Straining – be patient!

This was before I got really impatient and started messing with it to see if I could make it strain more quickly by pulling up the corners of the cheesecloth. When I did this, the whole thing tipped over and half of the yogurt spilled into my sink :(.

This was a very sad moment. So don’t do that. Just let it sit there and don’t touch it!

Silky smooth!

Once it has reached the thickness you like, you can just pour out the whey (save it if you like, for other uses) and transfer your yogurt to the glass bowl, whisk it to get it nice and smooth, put it in a glass container with a good lid and put it in your fridge, but you might just have to eat some at room temp because it is SO delicious! I had some with honey and pecans right away, and it was amazing! It reminded me of the first time I had real Greek yogurt in Greece. It was an eye opening experience to realize that yogurt could taste so good.

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Success!

And if you want a wonderful way to enjoy pancakes, try them with a dollop of this yogurt, and then add your maple syrup (pure maple syrup, of course). SO good!

Divine!

And now dear husband Matthew can have really delicious, organic whole milk yogurt in glass containers! No more plastic! And I have reused old jam jars that were too cute to throw away… I heated up some frozen blueberries with a bit of brown sugar and corn starch, let it cool, and put it in the bottom of the jars, top with yogurt, and voilà!

Too cute!

 

Here are a few links to blogs/websites that I found helpful, and have more detailed information:

https://www.daringgourmet.com/easy-homemade-greek-yogurt/

https://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/52-how-to-make-yogurt

 

Posted in Fun in the kitchen! | 6 Comments

Psycho Kitty, qu’est-ce que c’est?

Alright, so our neighbor asked us to take care of her cats while she is out of town for the holidays. No problem, right? We don’t know her cats, but we are cat people, and Mara was interested in the job, plus, we are good neighbors, so we said yes, of course. The first day we arrive and one of the cats scratches Mara’s leg when we walk in the kitchen. “Whoa”, says Mara. She imagined that she stepped on the cat, but I don’t think she did. I read a note left by our neighbor.

-The gray and white cat’s name is ___ and is nice. You can pet him. The stripe-y cat’s name is _____. DON’T PET THIS ONE!!! He can get a little psycho.

Hmmm… I thought to myself smugly :”I’m a cat person, and cats know that about me”, but nevertheless, I decided to stay away from stripe-y.

The next day we feed the cats, fish and gerbils without incident.

So today rolls around, and I am trying to get myself and the girls ready to go ice skating with my niece, their cousin Katie. (We are running late, as usual.) Getting dressed warmly, eating a good breakfast and lunch, making sure everyone gets their teeth brushed, packing snacks, feeding the cats their raw meat with Chinese herbs (that’s for another post), planting wheat, barley, oats and rye to turn into cat grass for our cats -why this morning? I’m not quite sure. During all of this, Mara reminds me that we need to go feed the neighbor’s cats, and she says she wants to do it by herself, since it is her job. I allow it, thinking that Mara needs the responsibility, and it will boost her self-esteem to do this on her own. I have every intention of stopping by the house on the way to the skating rink to make sure everything is in order. Millie and I continue working on the cat grass project.

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Suddenly Mara flies through the front door, yelling: “Mom, there’s a problem! Finn got out and I can’t get him back in!!” Me: “Is Finn the stripe-y one?” Mara: “Yes!”. Oh crap! I run through the house and throw my boots on and rush out the door as Mara is yelling to me that the last place she saw the cat was under the porch.

I go at top speed up our ridiculously steep hill, up the narrow and treacherous steps that lead to our neighbor’s house – my adrenalin is surging – I’m imagining LOSING our neighbor’s cat, and trying to explain it to her. I look around, I go in the house and look around (I’m not sure why I did this, maybe to make sure some other catastrophe hadn’t also taken place?), and I go back outside. THERE HE IS!!! walking around a short distance away looking a little nervous, which is how he normally looks. I call to him in a sweet voice: “Kitty Kitty Kitty”, holding out my hand. He looks at me with big, wide eyes, and comes running toward me. I feel elated and relieved. He’s coming! He’s coming right to me! And he lunges for my hand and tears at it with his razor sharp claws. Then he runs off. As I stand there in pain and in shock, I notice my cell phone is ringing. It’s Mara calling me from home. She wants to know if she can do anything to help.

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These will do.

I look down at my hand and notice that my fingers are dripping with blood. I tell her to get a pair of Daddy’s work gloves and bring them to me. Which ones? she asks. I tell her the thickest she can find. In the meantime, I go in the house and grab a thick towel from the bathroom. I picture myself throwing the towel over Stripe-y, wadding him up like a burrito, and shoving him in the house. Mara arrives and asks what I’m doing with the towel. “Nothing. Give me the gloves.” Mara guesses correctly what my plan is. I tell her to go to the porch by the front door. I then see Stripe-y near the side of the house. He is looking at me and slowly walking away. I call to him, and he stops and looks at me with those big wide eyes. I approach, and as quickly and as deftly as I can, I throw the towel on top of him and attempt to bundle him. He easily wriggles free and runs under a bush in front of the house. I call to him. He doesn’t come out. I tell Mara to give me the broom. She says that that would have been her plan as well. She goes back to her post at the front door. I start to smack the bush (NOT the cat!) with the broom and make loud hissing and shooing noised, kind of like a wicked witch, and Stripe-y runs out toward the front door. I yell, “MARA, OPEN THE DOOR!!!” She does at just the right moment, and Stripe-y runs inside. I go in and put the towel back, and we leave, locking the door and checking it twice. All of this happened in a matter of minutes. When we got back home, Millie was happily playing with refrigerator magnets. I look at our cats, who are calm and collected, and I feel grateful.

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Tillie and Togy, my angels.

Both girls oohed and ahhed over my bloody wounds. We made it to the skating rink about an hour and a half late, and had a GREAT time with cousin Katie.

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Posted in Cats | 2 Comments

Knock Knock

Millie’s knock knock joke:

Millie: Knock knock.

Me: Who’s there?

Millie: Lemon.

Me: Lemon who?

Millie: Knock knock.

Me: Who’s there?

Millie: Lemon.

Me: Lemon who?

Millie: Knock knock.

Me: Who’s there?

Millie: Lemon.

Me: Lemon who?

Okay, so you think you see where she’s going with this?

Millie: Knock knock.

Me: Who’s there?

Millie: Orange.

Me: Orange who?

Millie: Oh, I didn’t know that you were late for work!

I laughed pretty hard. So here’s some background.

Here’s an old joke of my dad’s:

Dad: Knock Knock

Me: Who’s there?

Dad: Eisenhower.

Me: Eisenhower who?

Dad: I’s an hour late for breakfast!

Here’s a joke of mine:

Me: Knock knock.

Whoever will listen: Who’s there?

Me: Chooch.

WIL: Chooch who?

Me: Oh, I didn’t know you were a choo choo train!

And here’s a joke of my dear husband’s:

DH: Knock knock.

Me: Who’s there?

DH: Lemon.

Me: Lemon who?

DH: Lemme know when you’re ready to go!

So here’s one more knock knock joke for you:

Me: Knock knock.

You: Who’s there?

Me: Nowd.

You: Nowd who?

Me: Now do you think it’s funny?

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Posted in Kids | 2 Comments