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Got the hankerin’ fer some comfort food last night, so I made a traditional Midwestern ethnic favorite: Tuna Noodle Casserole. In order to be authentic, this must be made with CANNED tuna, not fresh, CANNED cream of mushroom soup, not home-made mushroom sauce, CANNED peas and, preferably, Velveeta cheese product. I didn’t have any Velveeta, so I had to use pre-shredded mild cheddar, which is almost as bad–er, good. I also used onion powder rather than fresh onion, so I redeemed myself. Oh, and you have to use saltine crackers.

TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE

  • can of tuna (I use white in water, but any kind will do)
  • can of cream of mushroom soup
  • can of peas (probably won’t need the whole thing–just add as much as you want)
  • cooked noodles (used flat noodles, but spaghetti or macaroni is okay)
  • cubed mild cheese, Velveeta or mild cheddar or whatever you like
  • diced onion or onion powder
  • saltine crackers, crumbled

Mix all ingredients together. You only need enough crackers to make the mixture nice and gummy. Glop it into a buttered casserole dish and cover with foil. I put it in a small bread loaf pan and cooked it in the toaster oven. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, less if it’s spread thin in a large pan. Remove cover. Sprinkle with more cheese and bake an additional 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Mmmmm…. Good for what ails you.

MA

writing prompt: Are your main characters’ comfort foods upscale or downscale? Do they admit to them?

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After my sad non-lunch, I determined to have a nice supper, and I think I dinnerbegunsucceeded. I had a bunch of veggie tails (catchy… very catchy), so I cut them up and mixed them with garlic-infused olive oil and Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt. I had eggplant, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, celery, carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. I meant to put in an onion, but I forgotted.

I put all these goodies in my stove-top smoker with cherry wood chips.dinnerdone

When it was almost done, I opened a can of crescent rolls I got on HUGE sale. Unrolled the rolls, put a little piece of ham and a little piece of Swiss cheese on each and rolled them up and baked them in the toaster oven. We had some brotchen (German hard rolls) I made according to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’s recipe. Dinner was a winner. 🙂

Reading from Right to Left

Since I rearranged my office, I get to take walkies every morning. I moved my computer to about the center of the long, narrow space, but the phone jack is still on the far left. So, every time I juice up the computer, this is the drill, reading from right to left, with a couple or three steps from one station to the next: Plug in power strip. Turn on power strip. Turn on tower case. Plug in external modem (for diallll-uuuuup), plug in phone jack.

5-l-jack4-modem3-c-power2-bar1-r-plug

Oh, HAIL No!!

We’ve had gorgeous weather–in the 50s, 60s, 70s. Mushrooms walking up on the porch and ringing the doorbell. Then we had this line of thunderstorms and now we’re getting freezes and it HAILED. In APRIL. Not funny. Here are some hailstones. Meh.

hail-yesMA

Writing prompt: What does your main character do when it hails? Curse? Laugh? Run out and cover the plants? Pull the car under shelter? Go out on the porch and take pictures like a dummy?

Merry Christmas to all! I opened my presents last night. These were from my bestest Pal, fellow writer Pat Stackhouse. In our family, we don’t give presents to grownups, we donate money to the Heifer Project and the local Community Services, instead, but Pat and I exchange presents, as do Jane and I.

Today, I’m taking a toasted almond spread.

First, the recipe as it’s written, and then the one I’m making.

TOASTED ALMOND PARTY SPREAD

  • 1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/3 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing
  • 2 Tbs chopped green onion
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Spread mixture into 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring after 8 minutes. Garnish with additional toasted almonds, if desired. Serve with assorted crackers or toasted bread cut-outs.

I’ll probably mix Swiss and Muenster cheeses, since I have both. I’ll use mayonnaise rather than salad dressing, because I like mayonnaise and loathe salad dressing. I don’t have any chopped green onion. I’m putting in about 1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted. I don’t have sliced almonds, I have slivered almonds, so that’s what I’ll use. I’ll probably bake it in my handy-dandy toaster oven, as I do most anything I bake.

MA

Writing prompt: What did your character get for Christmas? What did he/she WANT to get? What is his/her greatest Christmas disappointment? Greatest Christmas memory? Favorite present ever?

So now I have a head cold, but I had to get up and moving. I’m past the contagious stage, so I loaded up my soap dispenser and hit the kitchen, washing my hands before and after I touched anything.

Our green peppers are coming in like gangbusters, and Charlie loves stuffed green peppers, so I said I would make some for supper. Didn’t feel quite up to the whole nine yards, so I did this stripped-down version. He doesn’t eat red meat, so I thought about a vegetarian version, but he said, “Stuff ’em with ham,” so I decided to do that.

I put some olive oil into a small pot and chopped up some ham and some mushrooms and some green peppers. I would have used onions, too, but onions don’t always agree with him so I didn’t put them in. I stirred that all around until the mushrooms started to brown and smell nutty and toasty, then put in a small can of tomato sauce and half a can of water. Here’s where the short-cut came in, and where I made my mistake. Instead of using “real” rice, I used instant rice, which is, I found out when I was researching one of my Culinary Chronicles for World Wide Recipes, an ancient product! Anyway, my mistake was in putting in the same amount of rice as liquid. I had to add more liquid, because the tomato sauce doesn’t work the way broth or water does, so I ended up with WAY more stuffing than I wanted. I also added some ham-flavored bouillon. (Thanks, Mr. Spell-Check. Will I ever learn how to spell that word?)

Meanwhile, I field-dressed two small green peppers, cut them in two, rubbed them with olive oil that has a garlic clove floating around in it and broiled them in the toaster oven until the skins were black and blistered, then took them out and put them in a brown paper bag for about 15 minutes. I didn’t bother to remove the skins, a fiddly process, just left them on.

Then I oiled a small casserole dish, put down a thick layer of stuffing, put the peppers, open side up (duh) on top and filled them. Sprinkled the top with Mexican blend shredded cheese, covered the casserole with non-stick Reynolds wrap and baked it at 350 in the toaster oven for about half an hour.

It was very good.

Charlie ate his green pepper and half of mine. I just like the stuffing stuff, so that’s what I ate. We had enough for leftovers today and, because of my mistake with the liquid/rice ratio, we also have a bunch of the stuffing stuff that didn’t get baked. I have it in mind to make tamales one of these fine days–found the hidden bodega and bought some corn husks–and this stuffing stuff will go great with those and some refried beans.

Life is good, even with a cold.

MA

writing exercise: Suffering under some disadvantage of circumstance or temporary disability, you decide to cook something fancy. It doesn’t go as planned.

My baby book clearly states that my first word was not Mama or Dada but MEAT. Still, the stuff at the farmers’ markets this summer have been so good and so various that we’ve been eating a lot of fruit and vegetables. I even–I blush to confess this–have TWICE made bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches and later found the bacon still in the microwave. I didn’t even realize I didn’t have the bacon on the sandwich. Of course, I do use a lot of crunchy lettuce, THICK slabs of tomato, slathers of mayonnaise (no salad dressing, PLEASE!) and as many dill pickles as I can pack on. Small wonder a couple little pieces of bacon get lost in that shuffle.

Today, I bought a bunch of bi-color corn and some eggplant. This guy I’ve been buying eggplant from has really spoiled me–I won’t be eating any eggplant over the winter, because they just won’t be as good from the grocery. The eggplants in the grocery are always about the size of footballs, seedy and bitter and woody and tough. Ick. This guy has pretty little eggplants, which sounds kind of dirty, if you say it just the right way. Anyway, I’ll boil all the corn, we eat till we founder, and I’ll freeze the rest.

I’ve been SO LAZY and haven’t made any pesto for the winter. Poor little grasshopper…winter will come and there will be no pesto in my freezer. I’m going out of town for a couple of days, so I’ll have to make some on Friday. Of course, I’ve already let the basil go to seed, but past-prime pesto is better than none at all.

It’s so hot today, I think I’ll bake a little bread in the toaster oven and we’ll have fresh tomatoes, bread, fresh fruit and Camembert for supper. But don’t think I’m a vegetarian, ’cause I’m not!

MA

Writing exercise: You go to a farmers’ market and find there a vegetable you’ve never seen or heard of before. The farmer sees you eyeing it.

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Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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