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)
Milk
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
Breadcrumbs

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!

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Yes You Do Have Time for Breakfast: Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Yummy Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie!

Breakfast, according to the popular saying, is the most important meal of the day. I ask: why does it have to be so early? When I am sleepy? While I used to take that extra 20 minutes for sleep, with two kids and a husband to feed, I no longer have that option. So I try to find quick, healthy (ish), filling breakfasts like this Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie!

I had to make this smoothie a few times. My first couple of efforts weren’t banana-y enough, and I like a really thick smoothie (thin ones kind of gross me out). But I made this for my husband and I this week and . . . I finally got it!

Packed full of protein, fiber, calcium, multiple vitamins and nutrients and (let’s not hide from this) fat, this is a full, satisfying meal that is absolutely delicious! And it takes about 60 seconds to make. So without further ado:

Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie

Serves 2
You Need:

3 frozen bananas, cut into chunks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup ice cubes

Place everything in a blender and blend! Pour into two pint glasses and garnish with additional cinnamon, if desired. Drink!

You can, of course, omit the cow’s milk and yogurt and replace them with almond or soy milk; leave out the honey if your milk is sweetened.

Who’s going to try it? Do you have a quick, tasty breakfast to recommend? Post below!

Yes You Can: Get Vomit out of a Car Seat

BakingSoda

You don’t want to need this post. But you may, someday. And then you’ll thank me. If thinking about babies or toddlers projectile-vomiting all over their car seats makes you queasy, bookmark this and come back as needed.

One day, I was setting up my son’s annual school art auction all day, so my sweet Sarah went to her brother’s baseball game with Daddy, Aunt Myndi, Grandma, and Grandpa. This is what I heard when they came home (I was upstairs getting into a fancy dress and doing my hair).

Sid: “That baby threw up everywhere! Your car smells like puke!”

Sarah: “Waaaaaaaaaaaah!”

I came downstairs to find Sarah covered, and I mean covered, in greenish puke (turns out it was chocolate chip mint ice cream) and sobbing, arms outstretched, as Scott undressed her on the front porch. The car seat was there, looking like Slimer from Ghostbusters had exploded all over it. It reeked of semi-digested dairy and bile. Whoa nelly. Now if this had been her infant carrier, it would have been easy–the whole cover came off and was washable. That was not the case with this one (check your manual to make sure).

This is how I handled it (the next day, even), with help from this source:

How to Get Vomit out of a Car Seat

  1. Blot up/scrape up as much of the vomit as possible. Use a spoon and/or a kitchen towel. Burn them with fire after.
  2. Cover the affected areas with baking soda; let sit for 30 minutes (preferably outside).
  3. Vacuum up the baking soda. Throw away your vacuum.
  4. Mix a solution of hot water with a splash of white vinegar and a few drops of dish soap.
  5. Now get a washcloth and/or a brush and scrub that chair! Don’t forget the straps–move around the buckles/pads/etc. to get into every crevice.
  6. Move around the padding/lining to make sure there aren’t any puddles of goo.
  7. Blot with a clean towel.
  8. Let dry, preferably outside in the sun, but a warm dry place will do.

Thankfully, this did the trick. And really, that car seat needed a good cleaning anyway. But dear Lord someone remind me to keep an old towel in the back seat!

Yes You Have Time for Breakfast: Greek Yogurt With Granola

GreekYogurt

Greek yogurt with honey and granola: breakfast in less than two minutes.

Hey everybody! You know the drill: breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yadda yadda. You know what I like to do in the morning? Sleep. I never used to eat breakfast, until I moved in with my husband and now stepson, and quickly realized I needed to feed us fast, every day. So now I’ll share my secrets with you! At least the ones about breakfast.

Greek yogurt with honey and granola is my go-to at least once a week. It literally takes less than two minutes to get it together for all four of us (although I just use jam for Sid and Sarah). Plain, full-fat Greek yogurt is packed full of protein and calcium, plus the live cultures are great for your gut. In fact, yogurt is one of the few “live” foods we commonly eat in our processed food culture.

Granola can be more of a mixed bag: it can be as sugary as a candy bar. I use Pamela Salzman’s excellent granola recipe. Not only is it delicious, but it uses maple syrup and honey as sweeteners (which at least sounds better to me) and includes nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for fiber and nutrients.

Now you do not need to make your own granola. Don’t stress out! There are plenty of excellent options at the grocery store–you can even find it in the bulk section in many stores.

This is so simple I feel silly posting a recipe, but here’s my method and proportions, at least:

Greek Yogurt With Honey and Granola

Serves 1
You need:

1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (don’t be afraid–you need enough calories to get you going, plus, the whole low-fat diet is probably a crock)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup granola of your choice

I use a 2 oz spring-loaded scoop (two scoops per bowl)–it’s fast, makes the plate look good, and makes portioning out the yogurt easy. Drizzle with honey, top with granola. Done! It took you longer to read this recipe than it will to make. I substitute my own jam for the granola and honey for the kids.

Serve with a piece of fruit!

What’s your favorite go-to breakfast? Post below!

Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Yes You Can: Make Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Can you hear it calling?

I’m about to do you a favor. You’re going to use my Grandma Forsythe’s spaghetti sauce recipe for the rest of your life. You’re going to pass it down to your children–and they’ll pass it on to theirs. This is why:

  • This spaghetti sauce is amazingly tasty
  • It’s super easy–it just needs simmer time
  • Also: quite cheap
  • You don’t need a lot of tools: a cutting board, knife, frying pan, pot, and spoon should do it
  • It will make your house smell amazing

This is one of my go-to recipes that has seen me from my first apartment in college to present-day dinner parties with out-of-town guests. Everyone (who eats meat) loves it!

I’ve altered the recipe just a tad over the years–the original called for vegetable shortening and garlic salt. Also, this is actually part of my Grandma Forsythe’s fabulous lasagna recipe–and it is fabulous, rich and delicious and perfect for potlucks or families with new babies. But making lasagna is a pain, and making spaghetti is easy and still quite rewarding. So let’s get to it.

Grandma Forsythe’s Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Makes enough sauce for at least two pounds of pasta

You Need:

2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large (28 oz) cans tomato sauce
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water with bouillon cube (I usually use a cup of water with a teaspoon of beef “Better Than Bouillon,” or a cup of chicken stock, or water in a pinch)
1 lb ground beef
1 lb mild Italian sausage

Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft. Add the next six ingredients. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

In a frying pan, saute the ground beef and Italian sausage until cooked through. Drain and add to the sauce. Simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

Put a large pot of water on to boil, and then cook spaghetti according to the package directions. Toss with sauce, then top with a little additional sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Lasagna Variation

Serves at least 12

You Need:

1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese
Parmesan (unspecified: I use at least 1 cup)
1/2 box lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions and spread out on cookie sheets. Place 1/4 of the sauce in the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ pan. Place a third of the noodles over the sauce and top with 1/2 of the ricotta and mozzarella, and 1/3 of the parmesan. Repeat. Top with 1/4 of the sauce, a layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, and the remaining parmesan cheese. Make ahead: refrigerate at this point if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (longer if refrigerated). Let set 20 minutes before serving. Mangia!

Chocolate Cake

Yes You Can: Make the Best Damn Chocolate Cake in the Whole Wide World

Chocolate Cake

The very best chocolate cake in the world. So seductive!

When I was a child, my goals were simple: I wanted to read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries, and I wanted to eat more cake. My library card helped me achieve my first goal. But when I would ask my mother to bake me a cake, she would tell me she was too busy and that I would have to make it myself.

I quickly agreed, but there was another condition to contend with: my very crafty mother told me she would not buy me cake mixes: instead, I would have to look in her cookbook, then look in the pantry, and see what I could make.

My mom has no time for dilettantes, and I think she thought that I, as a third grader, would quickly give up. Instead, I made a chiffon cake with seven-minute frosting (and her assistance). But I wanted more. I wanted chocolate! During my trip through the pantry, I stumbled across our box of Hershey’s Cocoa, and discovered Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake.

To this day, this is the most popular cake I make on a regular basis–and it’s cheap and super simple. It’s also rich, moist, and so chocolatey, it begs for vanilla ice cream (or at least a glass of milk).

When I got older and had more money, I tried other, seemingly more promising, chocolate cake recipes, bursting with butter (this one calls for vegetable oil) and good-quality melted chocolate. But everyone would eat them politely and then one person (usually my brother) would sigh and say, “This is good, but I really like that other chocolate cake you make …”

This is a great birthday cake. Or fantastic cupcakes. Or a superb sheet cake. I’ve even quadrupled the recipe and made a memorable wedding cake, with the addition of fresh raspberries between the layers.

Chocolate Wedding Cake

Add some raspberries and ribbon, and voila! A wedding cake!

But again: this is super simple, and simply delicious. Even a novice baker can make this, just read the recipe and follow the instructions!

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Makes one two-layer 9-inch cake, or one 9×13-inch cake, or 30+ cupcakes

You need:

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting. Makes 12 servings.

Variations:
One-Pan Cake: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan and line the bottom with waxed paper. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

Three Layer Cake: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

Bundt Cake: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

Cupcakes: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Wedding Cake: Heat oven to 350° F. Make one batch, pour into two 9-inch round pans (greased floured, the bottoms lined in waxed paper). Measure the depth of the batter. Bake as above. Make a triple batch. Grease, flour, and wax paper two 6-inch round pans and two 12″ round pans. Pour batter to same height as the 9-inch layers in each pan (use any leftover for cupcakes). Bake 6-inch layers for about 22 to 25 minutes (test with a wooden toothpick–when it comes out clean, it’s done). Bake 12-inch layers 35 to 40 minutes. Test with toothpicks. Proceed with unmolding as above. Trim layers and decorate as desired (I spread raspberry jam and placed fresh raspberries between the layers of each tier of the cake above, before frosting the exterior in chocolate).

Chocolate Raspberry Wedding Cake

Detail shot of the interior of the chocolate raspberry wedding cake. I am very particular with berry placement.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Makes 2 cups

You need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Beat butter. Alternately add powdered sugar, cocoa, and milk, beating to spreading consistency.

2. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Make it. Eat it. Bring it to parties and celebrations. Enjoy.

Cloth Diaper Pail

Yes You Can: Put Together an Inexpensive Cloth Diaper Pail

I know: of all the things I could write about, I’m writing an instructional post about cloth diaper pails?!? But I am psyched, and you know why? My daughter’s room no longer smells like urine, and I only had to spend $21.97. Plus it looks nice, is much more convenient than what I was using before, and I’ll be able to use it as a regular trash can once Sarah’s potty trained. Win-win-win-win-win!

GroVia Diaper Baby

Look at that cute baby in her GroVia diaper! She could never be stinky, right?!?

As I’ve mentioned before, the whole reason I got interested in zero waste* is because I was adamantly against the idea of cloth diapers, and I wanted to cut down on our garbage so I could fill it with disposables. But I had one particular friend who loved her son’s cloth diapers, and she was convincing enough that I ordered a starter kit from GroVia.

* Note: This, unfortunately, is not a zero waste project. I know I could have made some cloth laundry bags, or found some plastic free, but: the stink. I needed to act fast.

I. Love. Them. The GroVia hybrid cloth diapers work really well–way fewer leaks/explosions than disposables (although I do still put her in an overnight disposable diaper at night, since she’s started sleeping up to 12 hours at a stretch), way less garbage, way less money. Plus the covers are cute.

However. The GroVia “Perfect Pail” was not so perfect. Basically, it’s a hanging PUL (polyurethane laminate) bag with a zippered bottom. It’s easy to use and washes up nicely, but. It stinks. Literally. Plus, because it hangs, I had to hang it in Sarah’s closet. Not only was this fairly far from my changing table, but the close quarters meant every time I opened the closet, a huge cloud of odor attacked me.

Cloth Diaper Pail

Little. White. Not stinky.

Plus, her “nice” clothes hang in that closet! I finally had enough and started looking for cloth diaper pails. However, the ones I found on Amazon and Babies R Us were almost $50–just for the pail, without a liner. Since I had already spent money on the GroVia pail, this made me cranky. So I decided to try to put one together myself, and I am quite happy with the results!

Inexpensive Cloth Diaper Pail

You need:

I found a white, touch-top trash can at my local Fred Meyer for $9.99. I chose the touch-top version not only because it was cheaper than the step-on option, but because I can put something in front of it if needed and still access it.

DIY Cloth Diaper Pail

Small, compact, works perfectly.

I then found two cotton laundry bags in the same aisle for $5.99 each. This way, I can wash the bag with the diapers and have a fresh one ready to go. I decided to go with plain cotton rather than getting any special (expensive) PUL pail liners. I’ll let you know if they get too gross and I change my mind.

Cloth Diaper Pail Liner

I put some Mike Mignola Hellboy art in the background for you.

Putting it together was simple. I set the can where I needed it, and removed the lid. Then I shook some lavender essential oil onto one of my cloth wipes and draped it over the edge–most of it is in the can, but a little is outside (stink blocker).

Then I placed the bag inside, snapped the lid on, and voila! Done. It’s super easy to use, and smell free. A little stink escapes each time I open it, of course, but I’ve learned to be fast–and the bit of oil-infused cloth wipe that’s outside the can helps cover it up.

Inexpensive Cloth Diaper Pail

You can see the cloth wipe on the left!

Hope this isn’t TMI, but this is exactly the kind of post I went looking for when I began this important life journey.

Got any other tips? Post them below!