Tuna Noodle Casserole

Yes You Can: Make a Luscious Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Luscious Tuna Noodle Casserole, a Gould family recipe!

The cold and rain have returned to Portland, which means it’s soup and casserole weather, yay! I love a good casserole–they’re typically easy to make and feed a crowd. And oh I love to pull out the Campbell’s Cream of soups. They just feel cozy. This tuna noodle casserole comes from my friend Tiffany Gould, who graciously shared her family recipe with us, and it is fantastic: rich, creamy, and satisfying. It’s also huge.

Plus, like any good casserole, it’s flexible, allowing for the addition of whatever’s in your fridge. For instance, I made the casserole pictured above with egg noodles (instead of extra-large macaroni), ricotta (instead of sour cream), and thyme (in place of parsley), and it still retained its ineffably delicious character. Make it tonight!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 12

You Need:
2 cans white albacore tuna, drained
12 oz. extra-large macaroni, cooked and drained (if you use egg noodles, use 1 lb)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
Pepper (to taste)
Parsley (to taste)
3 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles in large pot according to directions on package and grate cheese. When noodles are done, drain and set aside. Combine tuna (you may need to chunk it up a bit), cream of chicken soup, and cream of mushroom soup in the pot used to boil noodles. Then add sour cream, pepper and parsley to taste; the measurements above are just an estimate, not exact.

Next, stir in the noodles and 2/3 of the grated cheese. Add milk until the mixture stirs easily; keep in mind the casserole will lose moisture as it cooks. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ pan, cover with the remainder of the grated cheese, and sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top.

Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, and then check to see if the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbling. If so, remove foil and cook for about another 15 minutes, until cheese on top has golden brown spots.

Variations: Add in leftovers from the refrigerator that need to be used in place of the milk, sour cream or cheese (cream cheese, buttermilk, cream, alfredo sauce, cottage cheese, ranch dressing). Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top with the bread crumbs tastes great, too.

Big thanks to Tiffany Gould and her family for bringing this recipe into our lives! Do you have a go-to casserole recipe? Post it below!

Help Me Make a Christmas Dress


Look at Beej! We are adorable. Christmas in Tualatin, circa 1979. Oh I just noticed we matched the tree skirt!

Christmas! Like many kids, I grew up loving Christmas. The whole season seemed magical: learning songs in school, making paper-chain advent calendars. Soon after Thanksgiving, my Mom would transform the house into a winter wonderland, bringing out treasured decorations–many of which she had made herself–and she always had new projects going on. The late ’70s-early ’80s was the height of the “dough art” craze, and my Mom would design and painstakingly make, by hand, hundreds of Christmas ornaments that she would sell in local bazaars. I have fond memories of our dining room completely covered with clown marionettes (with ribbon ruffs) or teddy bears sitting on baby blocks, as Mom hand-painted and glazed each and every one.

But my fondest–and most hilarious–memory is when I was four: the year Mom made my brother and I matching green velvet Christmas finery. I was beside myself: the dress was long and trimmed with white eyelet lace. I had, and have, never been so glamorous. My brother, who was two, was decked out in a green velvet vest and shorts, which made him look like an adorable toddler Kermit the Frog. We have pictures. They still make us laugh.

For years my brother and I have been threatening to break out the green velvet and recreate these magical memories, but this year I think I’m actually going to do it: I want to make a big, fancy, green velvet dress that screams Christmas and that I can wear to our fancy Christmas cocktail party.

It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve worked with velvet. It’s not very fashionable for the over-12 set (at least not since the ’90s), and it’s a pain to work with. However, I’m not going to let this stop me–I will make my dreams come true. Unless I lose interest halfway. I’m not making any promises here, folks.

Here are the three patterns I am considering:

Vogue Patterns V2903: Misses V-Neck Fit and Flare Dresses


Pros: Big, swishy skirt. I feel like a constructed, retro style would lend itself well to velvet. Cons: I don’t think the pleats will work with velvet.

Butterick B6094: Misses’ Fold-Back Facing Dresses


Pros: The bias-cut skirt is big and swishy without the bulk of gathers or pleats, plus that back is amazing! Cons: Not sure if I want to make a petticoat. I own one, might work.

Butterick B5748: Misses’/Misses’ Petite Flared Dresses


Pros: I love the idea of an actual retro pattern. Cons: This is basically a less interesting version of Butterick B6094, above.

So what do you think? Which should I pick? And . . . should I make a vest for Beej?!?

Luke's Diner Popup Portland Oregon

I Went to Luke’s Diner and It Was Magical

Luke's Diner Popup Portland Oregon

My very patient and wonderful family came with me to visit the real star of Gilmore Girls: Stars Hollow.

I need to start by saying that I have a wonderful husband and son. Because they let me drag them to a coffee shop on a weekday at 7 am and stand in line for two and a half hours. For a cup of coffee. My son is 11. He literally took one sip, refused to comment, and laughed with glee that he would be late for school because I couldn’t resist the lure of the Luke’s Diner popup event, a very clever marketing promotion for the upcoming Gilmore Girls revival.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is coming to Netflix November 25, which I’m sure at least 85% of people on social media must know right now, because Netflix’s PR game is tight, and thousands of people (and dozens of local TV news crews) were beguiled by the chance to visit Luke’s Diner right around the corner (almost literally for me: Oblique Coffee Roasters, the only participating location in Oregon, was about 15 blocks away).

I am not a morning person. And I’ve been working in fandom (comics and pop culture) for many years. I’ve worked countless conventions, including the big show, San Diego Comic Con. If anyone should be immune from standing in line for hours for a cheap freebie (for the record, the free cup of coffee was emblazoned with a quote from Lorelai Gilmore and a Snapchat filter code, and wrapped in a Luke’s-branded paper sleeve) and photo op, it should be me. Not only could I not resist, I was all in, because this promotion tapped into the essence of what made GG so popular: the idea of community.

Gilmore Girls is the story of mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Impetuous, irreverent Lorelai became pregnant at 16, severely disappointing her wealthy-yet-emotionally cold parents. Wanting her independence, Lorelai took baby Rory and ran away to the quaint town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, where she found a job as a maid at an inn, eventually working her way up to manager, and building her own family of friends. At the beginning of the series, serious, brainy Rory is 16 and has been accepted to the prestigious–and expensive–Chilton prep school. In exchange for loaning her the money for tuition, Lorelai agrees that she and Rory will join her parents for dinner every Friday. Wacky hijinks and emotional chaos ensues.

I didn’t watch Gilmore Girls when it debuted on the WB because it was on opposite Buffy. But also because I had just run away from home myself, in a way–I ran from a failed marriage and a boring copywriting career to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a quaint island where I learned to wait tables and eventually build my own family of friends. After returning to Portland in 2005 (and taking a work-from-home editing gig), my homesick self discovered GG on ABC Family and was hooked.

But in retrospect, I realize the main attraction wasn’t cool mom Lorelai or bookworm Rory (who were actually pretty flawed characters, but I like that). The real star of the show was Stars Hollow, the quirky granddaughter of Mayberry, and the Warner Bros. backlot-town that was literally made up of sets that have appeared on countless other TV shows (The WaltonsThe Dukes of Hazzard, and Seinfeld, to name a few). Stars Hollow is the town where everyone knows your name–and what you had for breakfast (probably at Luke’s, since Al’s Pancake House serves international cuisine). Portland seemed uncomfortably large to me, after living in a place where I literally knew almost everyone at the grocery store. Stars Hollow, a place rich in offbeat characters and so many town events and festivals, felt like a warm hug.

The return of Gilmore Girls is the return of Stars Hollow, and Netflix knows this–that’s why bringing Luke’s Diner to the masses was so smart, and so successful. After all, Gilmore Girls fans are already conditioned to love ridiculous events. And standing in line (for hours) with the GG fan community was like one long town meeting in our very own Stars Hollow.

Kicking yourself for missing Luke’s Diner? You can still get your Stars Hollow fix by visiting the “newly recovered” town website (apparently Kirk lost the password in 2007). That’s where I’ll be, drinking my coffee and the GG Kool-Aid, until November 25!

Circle of Chicken: Sid’s Soup

white bean chili

Sid’s Soup with corn muffin accompaniment!

Longtime readers will remember my Circle of Chicken posts–you start by making a perfect roast chicken and then use the leftovers to create hash, soup, broth, etc. I love the Circle of Chicken because you can make so many recipes from one $5 chicken (if you shop the sales), and I love having homemade broth on hand. Now I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite recipes: Sid’s Soup, named after my son (who loves it so).

Our good friend Amy made it for a party, and once I noticed Sid scarfing it down, I asked for the recipe. I was directed to Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom, but quickly realized that this soup was heavily adapted from a recipe for Spicy Pork Chili with Cumin Polenta. “Adapted” as in Amy’s soup didn’t have pork or polenta.

After some texting back and forth, I got the real deal, which is posted below. It’s incredibly flavorful and zesty–each bite wakes up your tongue, since it has a very mild edge of heat from the pepper and tartness from the lime juice. Swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth to make it vegan!

Sid’s Soup

Serves 6

You Need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup diced carrots
1 serrano pepper, seeds and membranes removed, minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cups dry white beans, soaked overnight and simmered until tender, or two 15-oz cans
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and chili powder. Stir occasionally and cook until slightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Add the serrano peppers and garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute. Then add the beans, tomatoes lime juice, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and the reduce heat. Simmer for at least one hour with the lid partially open.

Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the cilantro and serve (preferably with corn muffins).

Big thanks to Amy Baker for sharing her recipe! Now that it’s getting chilly (at least in Oregon), who out there is making soup? What kind?

Sarah’s Second Birthday Party


Sarah’s Elephant Cake (tutorial from My Cake School linked below).

Sarah turns two today, but we celebrated her birthday this past weekend by inviting 40 of her closest friends over. I know that sounds extravagant for a kid’s birthday party, but one, we often have even more over for brunch (does that sound smug?), and two, at this age, the party is more for everyone else (all of our friends with kids). When she’s older, I’ll cut it down to her actual friends. Maybe.

The party was actually pretty simple to set up: I basically made a birthday cake and what I call TFAW food. When I worked for Things From Another World (the world’s finest online and brick-and-mortar comic book shop), I catered all of our signings. I started out with superhero-themed quinoa salads and fancy canapes. After being overloaded with leftovers (no one wants to eat quinoa at an Avengers signing), I ended up making simple food everyone likes–dips, fruit, veggies, and cheese–with a firm plan for anything left over.

This menu is simple, relatively inexpensive, and perfect for almost any casual gathering. The birthday cake is a bonus! If you’re not throwing a birthday party or just don’t want to make an elaborate cake, I suggest cupcakes or (even easier) brownies.

Sarah’s Second Birthday Menu

  • Elephant Cake: This tutorial was great, and not too difficult
  • Nathan Fillion’s Seven-Layer Bean Dip of the Gods: This is seriously delicious–I spread it in a 10″ x 15″ glass Pyrex dish, so it’s easy for people to dip through all the layers
  • Salsa and Tortilla Chips
  • Veggie Platter with Spinach Dip: My mother’s specialty
  • Fruit: I went with grapes and watermelon)
  • Cheese Platter with Crackers: Since this was a kid’s party, I kept it simple: a wedge of Brie, dilled havarti, some sharp cheddar, and string cheese

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures because my phone died the morning of the party. We served lemonade, Arnold Palmers, flavored seltzer, and sparkling wine.

But as important as planning a menu is, it’s even more important to have an exit strategy for the leftovers. Here’s what I’ll be doing:

  • Cake: Gone, suckers!
  • Seven-layer dip: I made ersatz migas for breakfast the other morning with some tortilla chips thrown in. I’ll be adding taco meat and making burritos with the rest.
  • Veggies: The cut veggies have been going into my husband’s lunch, and Sarah and I have been snacking on the dip. Fortunately we didn’t have a lot left over–if there were more, I would have made “Free” French Vegetable soup.
  • Fruit: Lunches, breakfast
  • Cheese platter: If you know me at all, you know I have no problem taking care of extra cheese. The slices have been very convenient for sandwiches!

Do you have any go-to party food? Post below!

My Mom’s Famous Spinach Dip

Every time I throw a party, my lovely, thoughtful mother asks what she can bring, and I always say, “A vegetable platter would be great!” This is for two reasons: one, my mom makes a beautiful vegetable platter–the way she cuts and arranges the veggies is gorgeous. Two, she always makes her famous spinach dip, which everyone loves. It’s rich and creamy and zesty and fresh-tasting, plus the spinach lets you feel healthy.

My mom wants to make sure I tell you it’s from Cookery for Entertaining by Marlene Sorosky. The book is out of print, but that cover is etched in my memory for all time. One day I will make that watermelon whale! Ahem. Back to the recipe.

My Mom’s Famous Spinach Dip

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 pint sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 package Knorr dry leek soup mix, about ½ cup (I always use the whole thing)
1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon dry dill
1 teaspoon dry Italian salad dressing mix

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine all ingredients until blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to two days. Serve dip with assorted raw vegetables.

This truly is a superb dip, perfect for veggies, crackers, bread, or your fingers. Don’t ask how I know the last one. Make it for your next party!

Sarah Is Two

img_5820Okay, all you jerks who told me to “Cherish every moment, they grow up so fast!” were right, because Sarah is two–and I don’t know how, because it certainly can’t have been two years since she was born. But I love her so much I can barely remember what life was like before her.

She’s gone from a sweet, chubby baby to a laughing, climbing toddler who loves nothing better than getting us to laugh. Oh, and eating cheese. This is my daughter, after all!

Sarah at Two:

  • I always get asked how old Sarah is, and they’re surprised she’s only two. At 35 inches tall, she’s as tall as her three-year-old friend Eva.
  • She’s sleeping through the night (yay!).
  • We’re still nursing, at least four times a day. I didn’t think I’d be that weird hippie mom, but ah well. I’ve still got tons of milk. However:
  • Because of that, I’ve never left her overnight. I guess that’s our next big step.
  • Sarah is obsessed with books. She wakes up calling, “Mommy! Book!” and insists on sleeping with one. I hope it sticks!
  • She also loooooooves elephants. And baby dolls. And pretending to sleep (her fake snoring is hilarious). And “hiding” from Mommy.
  • Her pronunciation of the words “sock,” “fork,” and “walk” all sound like the F-word. It’s awesome.

Sarah’s still a Mommy’s girl, although she enjoys Daddy as well. We might both play second fiddle to her brother Sid, who is still the best big brother ever. She also loves Sid’s best friend, Ernie, who is also crazy about Sarah. He’s a tall, stolid 12-year-old whose feats of strength and daring are legendary, so it’s so funny and cute to see him dote on Sarah.

Overall, we’re very lucky to have Sarah, and it’s been so cool to see her grow into a toddler. Happy birthday, my sweet baby. Here’s to many more!