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.