Friday, March 2, 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole Awesomesauce.

Back before I started this blog, I always had an obsession with everything
"white trash".

I still do.

Calm down and untwist your panties. I don't mean this in a bad way.

Though I love the glamorized "trashy" part, how I see "white trash"
is really the being comfortable with what you have, making it work
whichever way you can and not gussying up the parts that you think
should just to impress others. Money isn't usually taken into account
because there isn't a whole lot to speak of anyway.

I don't know about you but when I was young, my family didn't have
a lot of money. I'm not ashamed, it was what it was. Mom knew how
to feed us on a budget, simple comforting food usually made with
"cream of" soups and gov'ment cheese. It was filling, usually stretched
to feed us more than one meal and always comforting. Now that I'm
older and a parent myself, I find myself turning back to those same
foods Mom made for me so my kids have the same memories and
instant comfort I had.

Years ago, I happened across two cookbooks called "White Trash
Cooking" and "White Trash Cooking II". These were written JUST
for me, I KNEW it. I bought both cookbooks on the spot, drove home
and read those cookbook cover to cover. During parts, I even flashed
back to my childhood and remembered times when my mother, or
grandmother or even a babysitter cooked me specific recipes and I
was back at that same time, remembering the exact feelings I had
that moment and instantly comforted. I own both cookbooks now
and every couple months I look through them and pick something
out to make for my family.

Flash forward many years later, I finally decide *this* is what I want
to blog about. A sense of comfort in knowing that we're content with
what we have and finding humor and beauty in the simplest things.
I want to bring this feeling to my friends. My blog readers. The public.
I think that if we all touched on this part of ourselves more often, we'd
all be a heck of a lot happier.

One recipe for me that covers all those bases AND is true white trash
comfort food is Tuna Noodle Casserole. We all know the stigma with
Tuna Noodle Casserole. It smells, it's usually flavorless (besides salty,
which some people will argue that salt IS flavor), and it tastes
like rewarmed dog pooh. Yep. I used to think that, too. I never had a
Tuna Casserole I liked, until *I* made it. And it was AWESOME.

My recipe is loosely based on Midnight Crunchy Crumb Tuna Casserole,
which is from "White Trash Cooking II". I changed a few ingredients to
make it stretch a little farther and add in a few "vegetables" to goose it
up a bit. I cooked the casserole in my cast iron skillet from beginning
to end (except for boiling the noodles, those I did in a seperate pot).
Feel free to add or subtract what you like from this, this is MY comfort
food but it may not be yours exactly. It's all relative.

This recipe feeds five, which for us means dinner and one bowl leftover
to rewarm the next day.

Cast Iron Tuna Noodle Casserole

1-2 tablespoons butter
2-3 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 large red pepper, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine
1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
2 small cans of tuna, drained
1 can Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup
3/4 cup evaporated milk
Couple tablespoons Hellman's mayonnaise
Good shake Frank's Hot Sauce
4 ounces swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 can French's French Fried Onions OR 1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350*. Warm the butter in cast iron skillet over medium
high heat. Add in celery, red pepper, garlic, onion and mushrooms.
Saute until vegetables start to look limp. Add in macaroni, tuna fish,
mushroom soup, evaporated milk, mayonnaise, and hot sauce. Stir
everything together until well incorporated. Remove from heat and
fold in cheese. Sprinkle french fried onions (or crushed crackers)
over the top. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Becoming one with my cast iron skillet.......and a pretty killer product review.

I didn't own my first cast iron skillet until a year or so ago
when a friend had purchased one for me for Christmas. I didn't
get what the big deal was. And I'll be honest--I asked a buttload
of questions when I got it, too. I drove everyone crazy about how
to keep one seasoned, how to clean it, how to cook in it, how to love
my cast iron skillet. Because I just didn't get it.

Until I did.

This all ties together. Trust me.

I have another blogger friend,,
who whispered in my ear about a product that she was asked to test drive
but for personal reasons, she opted out. (I think her personal reason
was to boot my butt into blogging again, but I can't prove it.) She
was right, though.) The name of the company is Lancaster International
Trading Company,, who imports and
distributes sun dried apricots and sun dried tomatoes. When I got the
package, I was quite excited. As you can see, it was carefully packaged
with beautiful packaging. I'm pretty much a sucker when it comes to any
kind of dried foods but these products were just GORGEOUS.

I was so tickled over this new product to play with that I went on
a hunt right away to find new recipes to use these beautiful little
gems. Through google, I found a wonderful recipe for Chicken Parmesan
with Sundried Tomato Sauce
at a fabulous website called
Good Life Eats. I've never cooked with sun dried tomatoes EVER
but I figured that now was as good of a time as any. Not only was it
my first time cooking with sun dried tomatoes, it was my real first
time cooking with my cast iron skillet that a) wasn't egg-related or
b) cornbread.

To tell you the truth, I was a freaking ROCKSTAR. I don't often
brag about how awesome I am, but dude, I rocked it out. I should
have jumped right in to cooking with my cast iron a year ago and
gotten rid of all my other pans. (And really, I plan on doing this
immediately. No, really.) The sun dried tomatoes were off the charts
delicious. I used the recipe on Good Life Eats as a base. I always like
to play with recipes a little to see if I can't put my own spin
on them. The end result was absolutely fabulous. As you can see
from my pictures......they speak for themselves! They're practically
runnin' their mouths!

Here is the recipe, if you decide you want to try this awesomesauce
for yourself. Again, I used the recipe from Good Life Eats as a base,
this is MY version. What I like to do is cook the chicken breasts first,
then let them sit in a warm oven while I cook the sauce in the same skillet
that I did the chicken. It cuts down on dishes AND I think it adds another
layer of flavor to the sauce. It's completely up to you on how you do it, really.
Just DO it!

Sundried Tomato Sauce:
Couple turns of olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup Lancaster International Trading Company sundried tomatoes
Healthy glug of balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

For the Chicken:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Couple good glugs of olive oil

For the Sauce: Add the olive oil to a large cast iron skillet and
heat over medium-high. Add onion and red peppers and saute for
3-5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and saute a minute more.
Add the tomato paste, the wine, the tomato paste, the diced/
crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaf, stirring well to
combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then stir in the sun dried
tomatoes. Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 15 minutes or until
sun dried tomatoes are tender. Stir in balsamic vinegar and season with
salt and pepper (if desired).

For the Chicken: Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the flour, parmesan,
garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or plate
with a rim. Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of saran wrap
and with a tenderizing mallet, pound the breasts down to half the original
size. Coat each piece of chicken on both sides in the parmesan mixture.
In a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken
pieces to the pan, cooking cook 5 minutes per side - or until golden.
Add chicken to a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Top each chicken breast
with mozzarella. Bake at 350° for 5-10 minutes (or until chicken is cooked
through and cheese is melted.

When assembling the chicken parmesan on the plates, I like to set
the chicken and pasta on the plate, then spoon the sauce over the
chicken and pasta. I'm not one of those who cooks the chicken in
the sauce or mixes up the sauce with the pasta. If you feel like doing
it that way, go nuts.

I hope you'll try this recipe out for yourself, as well as the products from Both the sun dried tomatoes and apricots
were delicious, I'm quite blessed to have had the chance to sample their
outstanding product. Much thanks go to
and for this wonderful opportunity.

**DISCLAIMER** Lancaster International Trading Company provided me with a gift pack of the products described for me to try. As always, any thoughts and opinions given on "Double Wide Skillet, Single Wide Budget" are my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love, Me?

Okay. It's been a year since I posted last. I have no good excuses or
reasons why I let it go for so long. I think about blogging all
the time. But for one reason or another, I can't seem to make it work.
There's always something that's keeping me from something I love.

Ooooooooh, I'm gonna sit on my a** on the couch and fondle the remote.

No. That's not always what happened. Just a majority of the time.

Truth be told, it's been one. long. year.

We picked up from our home state and moved way out of our comfort
zone to a brand spankin' new state. Since then, it's been a struggle
to keep afloat and find solid ground. Even though it's almost been
a year, we're still working to find that solid ground. It's really
tested our marriage, our sanity, the very core of who we are as a
family. I really didn't feel like I wanted to air the dirty laundry
of my personal life because it was bad enough I had to see it myself.

And truth be told, I'm struggling with my food addiction.

I won't get down to the nitty gritty because, we'll.......I think it's
time for me to stop wallowing and going over the things I do wrong. I
need to focus on what I do right. I've got one heck of a voice, I've got
a knack with cooking and I think I know how to connect with people.

Basically, this post is stating that I'm back. I'm going to blog and I'm
going to find my way back to what I love.

And I hope that what I love turns out to be me. For once.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Struggling with Food Addiction

It's been a while since I posted the huge food revelation blog.

I'm sorry. I'm just doin' what I do. Which isn't my best but
I'm working on it. It's always been a work in progress.

I was sitting pretty at 75 pounds lost. Then, I was maintaining.
After that, I was gaining. And now, I've gained. And I don't like
that AT ALL. It's not a huge amount but it's enough to where I
am feeling uneasy about my relationship with food again. I notice
that my pants are getting tight, I'm not making the best food
choices and I just don't make myself stop and say to myself "Why
are you eating, stupid a**. Don't you remember that you can't stop
when it comes to food?"

Addiction is a serious monkey on my back. The other day, I'd
gotten to the point where I'd seen food everywhere. Not one
thing all day gave me relief from the constant, unrelenting
food thinking and I wanted to jump out of my skin and I was
just screaming inside my head for it to all stop--for me to
stop. And you know, it never really does. This effing sucks,
man. It's SO hard. Food is everywhere and it's socially acceptable
to have it around, you go out and it's readily available and
it's encouraged to indulge as much as you like. Seems like
there's a new holiday around every corner of my calendar that
invites me to cook something "special" or have something I
wouldn't normally eat because it's a "special occasion". I can
get past it for a while, get cocky because I seemed to conquer
the issue, but it always comes back with a vengance and I just
can't seem to not only be okay with food and have it around and
not overindulge but to draw the line as to not cross it again.

I can have the greatest support system ever, and I do. But it
really comes down to me. And it's really just some days where
I wish it didn't come down to me. That I wish someone else could
carry this burden for a while so that I could seek relief for five
minutes. I know that it's to the point of wanting to to choose
food over everything else in my life or get serious. And duh, of
course I want to be serious. I don't want to struggle with this
so hard. But when do I get there? When is it enough? When is it
that I can finally say this will not be my struggle anymore?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finally being honest about my own weight issues.

This is a hard entry to write. I spent a long time turning it
over in my head.

I was talking with a good girlfriend of mine last week about
the sudden realization that I had when I hit the heaviest I'd
ever been. And when I had this realization, it about stopped
me cold, because I'd never really said it out loud to myself
because....we'll....who really wants to hear the cold, hard
truth about themselves? I mean, it hurts. Bad.

My name is Sarah and I am a food addict.

You can laugh, but it's true. And if I'd had the cojones to say
this eight years ago when I started putting on weight, I would
not have gained over a hundred pounds. Food for me is an addiction.
I cannot say no to almost any kind of food. I have no cap as
to what is "enough". And it's not like eating or having food is
illegal. So, it's not like being overweight is as socially unacceptable
as using drugs or drinking to oblivion, so I thought I was okay.

Until I wasn't.

And it's really that I looked in the mirror and I could not
recognize who I was anymore.

I can literally count on one hand the people I've talked to who
really have been honest andsaid "Oh my god, yes. That's exactly
what it's like." And though it's refreshing to have people
that I can talk about this to, it's terrifying how close this
is to any other addiction. For me, it was. All I thought about
all the time was food. Eating. When the next meal was. What I was
going to cook. How I would get the food I would be cooking/eating.
I'd eat more than I was supposed to eat and beat myself up all
day because I overate. And then, when I gained more weight, I
started to isolate. I didn't want to do much with my family or
friends because I was not the weight I wanted to be and I was
embarassed to have others see what I had become. But, because I
was isolating, I would go right back to comfort eating and the
cycle would start all over again. I hated myself so all my personal
relationships suffered. I figured because I hated myself that
it was just pity that others wanted to spend time with me as
I really had noone else.

Isn't that an awful way to live? I am so angry and disgusted
with myself because I just couldn't be honest with how I was
living my life and just face it, start to heal and move on.
This is no different from friends/family that I've seen struggle
with addiction. It's not exactly the same, but the cycles are.

Why am I blogging about this? Honestly, I can't let someone
else feel this way. I felt so isolated and really thought that
noone could feel like me. Or if they did, they would never
be honest about it. I mean REALLY be honest. And I'm telling
you that I don't hate you. Because I've been there. I am there.
And I understand. I've found that I've got to keep this active
in my mind. That I've got to keep reminding myself that this is
like any other addiction and that it's a daily (sometimes I've
even got to take it by the hour, minute and second, too. Depends
on how difficult the food-issues are for that day.) With keeping
this active, I've got to talk about it. Find others who feel
like me so that we can get it out there so we don't feel
this way alone and go back to our triggers.

Now that I've faced my truth, the weight is just coming off.
I'm learning about what works for me, food-wise. I don't keep my
trigger foods in the house because...we'll....I'd eat it all
in one sitting. I don't bake as much as I used to. I don't go
to fast food restaurants. I've eliminated all sugar, processed
foods, all sugary drinks, and binge/bored eating. It's been
almost four months and I'm down 46 pounds and six pants sizes.
I finally got under 200 pounds a couple days ago and that was a
HUGE milestone for me. I hadn't been under 200 since my oldest
son was two.

I can't take the credit all for myself, either. I now have eliminated
most of my unhealthy personal relationships from my life and
since starting this weight loss journey, I got up off
my couch and formed new, healthy friendships with a great
group of women who all love and support me and are honest with
me about their food issues, too. That was huge. (Nothing makes you
feel more powerful than having a conversation with your "girls"
and having them either say something that you are too afraid to
say out loud or you vocalize how you feel and have them say yes,
I feel that way, too. It's like, you aren't carrying the burden
alone anymore. And that's such a wonderful feeling.) My dad has
always offered his love and support when needed which has always
been a blessing.

So, now that I've put all this down on paper....kind of.....if
you feel the same way, leave a comment. If you'd rather not air
your dirty laundry for everyone to see, leave a comment that you'd
like my e-mail address and I'll get it to you. I really just
wanted to finally have this said and out there so that maybe
my struggle can help someone else as well as be
a little cheap therapy for me, too.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Loyalty......yes or no?


Still feeling a little blah. It's been a crazy week, to say the least.
Lots of health issues that both my husband and I are struggling with.
Nothing we can't handle, but with a normal weeking work for him and
a couple wrenches thrown in my week of housewifing/mothering, come
Sunday, I'm wiped out.

Go figure. Sunday is my busiest day. Or every two weeks, it is.

That's when I figure the budget for groceries for two weeks, get
my couponing in check, refine my shopping list/checklist for the
week, round up the rest of the laundry and all the loose ends
I couldn't get to during the week. Weekends mean time off for
Husband, not for Wife/Mom. Seems like my work is at least doubled
on the weekends. Anyone else with me?

Anyway, we've had to change our grocery shopping to once every
two weeks and have one mother of a trip, with one or two trips in
between for extra produce. I've noticed that we spend less this way
and I'm more likely to stick to a list. The last month I've
been lucky to have one of my favorite cashiers who's SUPER
attentive on how I shop, she's an EXCELLENT bagger, and she
makes my work when I'm unloading at home at least half. (For
those of you who are a Type A like me, this is HUGE. I can't
tell you how many times I've gotten my groceries home and half
of my produce is banged up or squished. If I'm spending time
picking out great produce, I want it to come home close to the
way I found it. If it's smushed or bruised, it'll go bad that
much quicker. Or, that's been my experiance.)

I have to say that I've been pretty loyal to my local grocery
store. I've strayed here and there, but I keep coming back to
them. I've noticed that their produce is better than what the
other stores carry, they have a higher selection or organics,
they've gotten better about their pricing so it's more of a
draw to spend because I save more AND they've almost always have
sales on what I need. But for me, what it comes down to is the
personal relationships I have with the staff. This store opened
locally when my oldest was just walking. He's a pretty loving
kid, really forms solid relationships with about everyone
he knows and the core staff all know him and make sure to touch
base with him every time we come in. Same with my younger boy
and my husband and I. I will tell you that I will sacrifice a
little bit more of my money to have that personal relationship
with the employees.Sounds silly, I'm sure,'s more of
that small town feel. We're far from a small town so much anymore
but for me, it matters. Because they notice we shop there.
And we're not just flashing dollar signs to them.

I really want to know if others feel the same way.

Do you stay loyal, for the most part?
Do you coupon and what are your best couponing tips?
How much do you spend usually and how many people are in your family?
How often do you shop?

And you know, thanks to those who read and comment! I do read all
of them and do my best to comment back to everyone. I do appreciate it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mix tapes like your first boyfriend made......but better.

I've renewed my love of mix tapes again. Kind of.

Let me explain.

I own a Blackberry. And this is after having the most basic of
phones for over a year and how I would go on about how I would
*never* own a cell phone. EVER. But, I heard from friends about
how GREAT the Blackberry was and I drooled over everyone
else's.....until I bit the bullet and got one last February. And
I love it just as much as I did the first day I got it. Even more.
It's like my own wife. Honestly. I do everything with
it. It remembers all my appointments, my mom meetups, holds all
my favorite ringtones and games, takes pretty boss pictures (or
it does compared to my first phone, the Kitana), it holds my grocery
list (and other various lists, because I am an avid list maker....
seriously I've got an issue) and it keeps me connected to all my
friends and family.

I have a point. With the mix tapes. I didn't forget.

The best thing about my Blackberry is Pandora. What's Pandora,
you ask? OMG, you don't know? Seriously? (Okay, so I'll be honest..
..I didn't really know-KNOW either. I mean, I did. But not like
I really know now. Anyway....) Pandora is like the best mix tapes you
ever heard. Like the ones you and your friends would make off of
the radio or with your killer system, which was really only a turntable
with a tape deck. Basically, you start off your search for your
favorite artist (mine yesterday was Melanie, like Brand-New-Key-Melanie)
and it will generate songs that are close to that sound or
the time period and will let you thumbs up/thumbs down or just skip it,
if you aren't feeling it. Super freaking cool. I really started
listening to it on Friday and I've been pretty much listening to it
non-stop since.

This is even more exciting for me because....we' MP3
player bit the dust last week. It'll do that when it's been through
the washing machine twice. (I know, I'm a MORON.) I had just started
walking my two miles in the morning again and having Pandora going
while I'm walking got me to my happy place and I actually walked two
and a half miles! Having Pandora instead of my MP3 player is just
wonderful. I can make a new "radio" at any time and I don't have to
worry about loading all these different songs on my MP3 player when I
want a change. It does all the work for me and you know, it does it
better. Because you're listening to these songs and it's kind of
like....oh, yeah....I LOVE that song.

So, anyway. It really is great. I can't say enough good things about it.
And it's so nice to have a new motivation to get me walking and happy.
Because when I'm happy about walking, I'm more apt to do it and
that'll help me that much more in my weight loss.

For those of you who have a Blackberry and use Pandora, what are
some of your "radio" mixes that you've come up with with your beginning