Monday, June 15, 2015

Tuna Salad with Greek Olives, Water Chestnuts and Red Peppers

A more "adult version"of an old standby.

It's easy to get into a rut with canned tuna. Mayo. Celery. Maybe chopped, hard-boiled egga. So I was intrigued when I spotted a recipe on-line with a Mediterranean kick. Unfortunately, I was not at all satisfied with the results and almost threw it into the garbage. Fortunately, I let it sit in the fridge overnight and WOW. All it needed was time for all those incredible flavors to mingle and mellow. We ate it at work as a kind of dip using Scoops. It would be great stuffed into a tomato, maybe with a bit of melted cheese on top.

I used ellowfin tuna in olive oil. It's much "meatier." The first time I made it, I used regular tuna in olive oil which, even after drained, made the mixture soupy. I prefer the yellowfin.

I deviated from the original recipe quite a lot which used celery; instead, I used water chestnuts. I also added green pepper, Old Bay for just a bit of a kick, seasoned salt, and upped the red onion. If you like Kalamata olives, you will appreciate this recipe. It's important to drain your red peppers to prevent the salad from becoming to0 wet. The Old Bay does not make it "hot" or spicy. Feel free to add a bit of Cayenne.

Water chestnuts are a great sub for celery in any cold-salad recipe.

  • 1/2 cup real mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2, 5-ounce cans tuna in oil, drained (see notes below)
  • 1, 5-ounce albacore tuna in water, drained
  • 1/2 heaping cup chopped, roasted red pepper from a jar
  • 15 Kalamata olives, drained and sliced lengthwise into strips, some chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 cup water chestnuts, roughly cut
  • 4-5 tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons finely diced green pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Remove red peppers from jar and pat dry on paper towel before dicing.

Whisk lemon juice into mayo. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve as a dip with corn chips, as a cold sandwich or open-faced sandwich with melted cheese on top, on a bed of lettuces with fresh-sliced tomatoes, or in a wrap.

Notes: I used Starkist Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kale with Wild Rice and Mushrooms

We sell a lot of kale at the grocery store!

It's difficult to believe that kale was once the leafy green that was impossible to find. Really? Yep!

Now, it's everywhere. Despite "foodie predictions" which love to announce its demise, kale shows no sign of disappearing. And I say that as a clerk in the produce department of a large grocery store. Recently, kale has found its way into pre-packaged salad mixtures and even fresh, mixed greens for making smoothies and powdered mixes for the same.

I was first introduced to kale in the 1980s via an Irish stew recipe. Wonderful. Unlike spinach, kale's wooliness holds up well in dishes that require a long braise or simmer, such as a stew. I have since lost this recipe. It was from the PBS series, The Victory Garden, with Mariane Morash. If anyone has the video or recipe, please let me know.

This is a rather simple dish to prepare, with the exception of the wild rice which takes some time. Now, however, one can actually purchase wild rice already cooked in a pouch and ready to go! Me? I'll stick to the old-fashioned way. To add more flavor, cook both rices in a bit of chicken or beef stock (or both). Feeling adventuresome? Add a bit of raisins (or dried cranberries) when you saute the onions.

You may serve this immediately right from the pan, but I prefer to place it in a casserole dish and sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan or Gruyere and bake just until the cheese melts. This is a great make-ahead side. And it pairs beautifully with my recipe for baked carrots.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1, 12-oz. package button mushrooms, stems removed and chopped in a 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (may sub leeks)
  • 1 pound kale, stems and spines removed, leaves roughly cut
  • 1 cup short-grain rice, cooked
  • 1 cup wild rice, cooked
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A bit of dried or fresh thyme leaves
  • A few scratches of fresh nutmeg (optional)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over hight heat for a couple of minutes to get it really hot. Add the mushrooms and season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the mushrooms give off their water and it evaporates a bit and the mushrooms begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium.

Add the onion and saute until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Add the kale and cover tightly with a lid so that the greens wilt. Once the greens have wilted slightly, toss with mushrooms and onion mixture and saute until the kale becomes tender but still retains a bright green color. Add more oil if the mixture is dry. Add the rices and stir all the ingredients together. Add nutmeg, if using. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Cover slightly until cheese melts.

NOTE: This is what I do:
To make one day ahead, place mixture in a covered casserole dish about 10 x 6 or 8 x 8. About one-half hour before serving, sprinkle with fresh Parmesan or Swiss-like cheese and bake for about 20-30 minutes in a 350 F oven or until warmed through.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015



Since autumn, I have been taking care of two groups of feral kittens that live behind the grocery store where I work. Biscuit and Boo are from one mom (they had a sibling but it died early on) and the gray kittens are from another mom.

The black kitten, Ink, showed up later on, so he really was not a part of either family. I found him curled as tight as possible in the middle of a field one snowy, wintry day. He and Zen Mitten are now buddies.

I have never experienced such a loving creature as Zen Mitten. He is very "centered" and loves everyone.

These cats have been neutered and spayed and chipped. The tips of their ears have been nipped to show they are being taken care of and this "pod" is registered with the state. Because of a lack of foster homes, they were re-leased because it was felt they were well-taken care of and in a safe environment.

Many people help out and they have provided dry, tiny shelters for them hidden in the field.

I can now pet all but one. We have homes for two.

North Carolina puts down more cats than any other state. We have tried to trap the mother cats, but they are old and savvy. Biscuit and Boo's mother is a beautiful and matronly calico with green eyes.

Not all cats are "dumped." Many simply run away, which I think perhaps Ink did. My own cat, Chalk, did.

If you know of people who look after feral cats, don't hesitate to donate a few bucks. Five bucks can buy a lot of food.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simple Weeknight Italian Spaghetti With Ground Beef

Oh, the things one finds when spring cleaning. I found this recipe safely tucked away in a drawer. I've had it since at least the late 1980's. Spaghetti was never really a staple meal in our household when I was growing up. We were, after all of Polish/Lithuanian descent. And, my tastebuds are sensitive to acidic, tomato-based sauces. But when I was served this by neighbors in the Indiana town where I taught school, I enjoyed it so much that I asked for the recipe.

If you like Stouffer's frozen spaghetti (and I do), you will like this recipe -- which I think is even better.

Thanks to the packaged, dry sauce mix that contains potato starch, this is  a thick sauce. It uses basic, pantry staples one usually has on hand. I suggest making the recipe as is before adjusting it. At the end, I will suggest options that I have tried.

  • 1 small yellow or white onion, chopped (about 3/4 - one cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves pressed or finely chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and set aside
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (any color will do)
  • 3/4 - 1-lb. ground chuck
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or to taste (optional)
  • 1, 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1, 12-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1, 3-4 ounce can sliced black olives, undrained
  • 1 package McCormick Italian Spaghetti Sauce Mix with Mushrooms
  • 1, 8-ounce can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano, lightly crushed
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 to one pound dried spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese for grating

Add a bit of olive oil to a medium Dutch oven. Sauté ground chuck, chopped onion, garlic, bell pepper.

Add the remaining ingredients in order listed except for the dried spaghetti and Parm. Mix well and bring to a slow simmer. Cover partially and simmer two to four hours. Periodically, uncover and add some slices from the extra garlic or to taste.  Keep tasting and adjust seasonings as necessary, especially just before serving.

Cook pasta. Drain. Add a cup or two of the sauce. Mix well to coat. Mound pasta on individual plates and top with meat sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.


  • Add a bit of chopped bacon to the ground beef.
  • Add sliced mushrooms when browning the ground chuck.
  • Use a dry red or white wine in place of the water.
  • Use the lesser amounts of  dried basil and oregano. About one-half hour before serving, chop up about 3/4 tablespoon of fresh to add to sauce.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed when browning meat mixture.

  • While I have not done this, throw in a couple of Italian sausages the last hour of cooking.