Grown Up Tuna Casserole

Grown Up Tuna Casserole

I have to admit I didn’t grow up with tuna casserole. My mom wasn’t a fan, so we skipped over that version of culinary “delight” but many of my friends complained about their mother’s subjecting them to the horror that was tuna casserole.

I never actually encountered a tuna casserole until the last full year I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, which would have been 1996. I worked at this really horrible, hole in the wall sort of preschool/daycare. It was a definite step down from the preschool/daycare I had worked at before, but this place actually had a cook on staff. Most of what she made was very good, but I dreaded, as did the children, the days that tuna casserole would make an appearance on the menu. It was a sloppy, icky mess, and even back then my mind went in to gear and I thought there had to be a better way to make a tuna casserole that was actually good.

Years passed, and that little thought was filed away into the “I’ll do that someday!” file and I never got around to getting back to the idea. Recently I decided it might be time to pull out that little thought, dust it off and see if I couldn’t come up with something a little more sophisticated than the standard tuna casserole fare. And you know what? It worked! If you want a tuna casserole that is a little more grown up and not a big old sloppy mess, this is the casserole for you!

What You’ll Need:
4 cups of uncooked egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1 large tuna steak
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
6-8 Crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 – 16 ounce package of frozen peas
1/2 cup of half and half
1/3 cup of light sour cream
1 cup of Parmesan
Harvati cheese, shredded
Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cook egg noodles, drain and set aside:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Egg Noodles

In skillet add a little extra virgin olive oil and place your tuna steak in the heated pan sprinkling it with some sea salt and a little finely ground black pepper:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Tuna Steak Cooking

Cook tuna steak until it is browned on both sides and mostly done through:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Tuna Steak

Once tuna steak is cooked use a fork and flake the steak into pieces:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Flaked Tuna

In the same pan that you cooked your tuna steak add a little bit more olive oil and saute your mushrooms and onions with a little sea salt and some finely ground black pepper until tender:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Onions and Mushrooms

Next stir in peas and cook for 2-3 minutes until mostly thawed:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Veggies

Stir flaked tuna in to the vegetable mixture:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Tuna and Vegetables

Next mix tuna/vegetable mixture with noodles and stir to mix. Add sour cream, half and half and Parmesan and stir to incorporate:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Filling

Pour mixture into a baking dish that has been brushed with olive oil:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Ready for Cheese

Sprinkle with Harvati cheese:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Havrati

Then sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Ready to Bake

Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly browned:

Grown Up Tuna Casserole: Baked

Serve immediately.

Note: You could add other vegetables if you liked. This method could be used with a salmon steak too, but I’d add in some dill if you were using salmon.

Make Your Own: Vanilla Extract

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract? Not only is it ridiculously simple, it’s also some of the best vanilla you’ll ever taste at a fraction of the cost of what you pay for a bottle of vanilla at your local grocery store. A couple of years ago I made vanilla extract to give as Christmas presents and I haven’t bought vanilla extract since!

Have you made your own? No? Curious how it works? Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:
Vanilla beans, cut in half
A canning jar with a lid

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to Go

First off you’ll need to decide what size jar you want to use. When I’m making it for myself (or close friends/family) I go with the quart sized jar. For gifts the pint sized jar works too. Rule of thumb, a liter of vodka will pretty much fill a quart sized jar.

Next you want some vodka. I like to use Irish vodka?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Irish Vodka

Why? Well I have this fascination with all things Irish, but you can use whatever kind of vodka you like.

Next let’s talk vanilla beans!

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Beans

You’re going to need 6-8 vanilla beans. First off do NOT go to the store and buy those stupid vanilla beans that are one in the jar for like $10 or something, because then you’re going to have one pricey bottle of vanilla extract! That defeats the purpose of making your own and saving yourself some money.

You want to get online either on EBay or and do a search for vanilla beans. I like to buy the organic version, but you’ve heard my ideas on organic before. You can get a large number of vanilla beans for next to nothing! I bought some a couple of years ago and paid like $14 for 100! I still have them in my pantry and they are just as good as they were the day I bought them.

Trust me, go forth and search. I’ll wait….

Did you search? See I told you! Now order yourself some vanilla beans already! ;oP

Now where were we?

Cut each vanilla bean in half:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Beans Cut In Half

Place the split beans in a jar and cover with vodka:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to "Steep"

Be sure and put the lid on tight.

Now comes the waiting part. This process does take a few weeks, about 6 to be exact, until it’s ready to use. All you need to do is sit it in your pantry, or on your counter out of direct sun light, and give the jar a little shake now and then. It will start to turn a beautiful brown color and you’ll know it’s ready to go. Once it’s done you use it just like you use the vanilla extract you buy at the store.

Below is a picture of the extract at various stages:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to "Steep, Ready to Use and Almost Used Up!

The clear jar is the one I just put together. The jar in the middle is one I put together in December of 2009 and the jar that is almost empty is the one I’ve been using since December of 2007. Neat hunh?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: My Two Year Old Jar Almost Empty

Not only is this sinfully easy, it’s also quick! The entire process of getting it in to the jar takes less than 5 minutes. A little forethought is needed so that you have it ready to go when you need it since it needs to “steep” for 6 weeks or so, but shaking it here and there is neither difficult nor time consuming. When you’re done you’ve got a fabulous vanilla extract that just can’t be beat!

Notes: I did a little experiment when I made my first batch and used several different types of alcohol as an experiment. For the record bourbon and rum work OK too, though vodka is my favorite medium. The tequila? Well that one didn’t turn out too great. You can’t win them all! ;oP

New York City in the Spring

The Manhattan/Brooklyn skylines taken from the Staten Island Ferry:


Alexis finally got to see “her” Statue of Liberty. It was love at first sight!

Lady Liberty

Now I’ve got to get her over to the Eiffel Tower…. ;oP

The Globe sculpture that stood between the Twin Towers and was pulled from the wreckage:

WTC Globe

My understanding is that they are going to move this from Battery Park, back over to the new WTC site when it is complete.

Tulips on Broadway:

Tulips on Broadway

Grace Church:

Grace Church, New York

Grace Church, New York

I’ve always been fascinated with this church. It’s such a gorgeous building!

Another shot of Manhattan taken from the Staten Island Ferry:


And one of my little tea cup taking in the big city:


And yes she insisted on wearing her Wellies! She and those boots pounded the pavement and good! She liked riding in the cab better though!

New York in the spring? I highly recommend it! I had forgotten how vibrant that city is and how much I love it! I can’t wait to go back!

Originally posted at Daffodil Lane.