Feb 28, 2013

Tuna Melt Mac and Cheese

The inspiration for this came from a Rachael Ray show I watched a couple days ago.  Here is her original recipe, and I will say what I did differently in (parentheses).  It was very yummy - actually exceeded my expectations.  Although it is fat and calorie laden, you could lighten it up a little by using low fat ingredients adn whole grain pasta and breadcrumbs. 

Tuna Melt Mac 'n' Cheese


  • Salt
  • 1 pound hollow cavatappi or elbows with lines, or macaroni with lines
  • About 3 tablespoons EVOO, plus extra for drizzling
  • 12 ounces line-caught canned tuna, drained (3 cans regular tuna - 15oz)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley and tarragon (a little dried parsley)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or scallions, whites and greens (yellow onion)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (1 1/2 TBS spicy brown mustard)
  • 1 to 2 small ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced (left out)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 stick butter (plus 4 TBS - 6TBS total for the sauce, 4TBS total for bread crumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons flour (increased sauce by 50% so 4 1/2TBS flour)
  • About 2 1/2 cups whole milk (3 1/4 cup milk)
  • 2 cups grated white Cheddar or gruyere cheese (1 block extra sharp cheddar, and 1/2 block Colby Jack which a little Monterrey Jack shredded in there too)
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade breadcrumbs or panko (about 1 1/2 sleeves worth crackers crushed - Ritz and Toll House - used up what I had)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parm (omitted)


Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to less than al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and drizzle with a touch of oil to keep the pasta loose. (I put the pasta back in the large pot, then used it to combine everything else before putting it in a 9x13)

In a large bowl, flake the tuna and add the herbs (reserving a tablespoon or 2 (4) for breadcrumbs), onions, mustard, celery, lemon juice, EVOO and some salt and pepper. Add the pasta and combine well. Transfer to a baking dish or large casserole dish. (put everything into the large pot with the cooked pasta)

In a medium saucepot, melt 4 (6) tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute. Then whisk in the milk and season with salt and pepper, thicken to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the Cheddar (all cheese) in a figure-eight motion. Pour the sauce evenly over the pasta and tuna. Gently combine with a spoon to settle the sauce (this is why I used the big pot - stir to well coated). Cool and store for a make-ahead meal. (could freeze)

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a small pan and add the breadcrumbs and reserved herbs (omitted herbs), toss to evenly distribute the butter, remove from heat and transfer to airtight container.

To prepare, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and bring the casserole to room temperature. Top the casserole with breadcrumbs and Parm cheese (omitted Parm). Bake until golden and hot through (about 30-40 minutes, make sure the breadcrumbs don't burn - cover with foil if necessary).

Feb 25, 2013

French Chicken Broccoli Supreme

A friend made this for me as a freezer meal when my baby was born.  We loved it!

1LBS fresh broccoli, broken into pieces and steamed 2 minutes
3 cups cooked shredded or diced chicken
3 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
3 cups cooked rice
2 sleeves Ritz crackers
1 stick melted butter
1 TBS poppy seeds

1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups of the cheddar from above


In a greased 9x13, layer rice, broccoli, and chicken.  Set aside.  In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk.  Stir well, and continue stirring until sauce thickens.  Turn heat down to low and add 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.  Stir until melted.  Pour over the chicken and broccoli.  Top with 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

Melt the cutter and add poppy seeds, stir well.  Crush Ritz crackers.  Add to melted butter.  Sprinkle over the grated cheese.

To eat Immediately:
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

For the Freezer (before baking):
Top with plastic wrap and foil and freeze.  Thaw before cooking.

Feb 20, 2013

Orange Dream Cake

My son loves the color orange. So for his birthday he wanted an orange cake. I could have thrown a little food coloring in a white cake mix and called it good. But that would be boring. So I started googling recipes for orange cakes and got what is basically an orange version of a Strawberry Poke Cake. Of course from experience I know that using a boxed cake mix for this (as the recipes I found showed) would yield a soggy cake. So I went to the only poke cake recipe worth using - Cooks Country Strawberry Poke Cake. I took the cake recipe and combined it with the gist of the other recipes and got a pretty yummy cake.

Orange Dream Poke Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used half orange extract and I'm not sure it made a difference)
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 350°F Butter and flour a 13x9x2" baking pan.
    In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder.
    Whisk together milk, egg whites and vanilla, just until egg whites are broken up.
    In the work bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric hand beater), cream together 1 3/4 cups sugar and butter, about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add half the wet ingredients, then half the dry ingredients, then the remaining wet followed by the remaining dry. (This step IS important to get a nice flat cake!).
    Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread evenly. Bake on middle rack of preheated oven for 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for at least 1 hour. With a wooden skewer, poke about 50 holes all over the cake, not going all the way to the bottom (but as close as you can).
    For the filling:
    1 6oz box orange jello
    1 1/2 cup boiling water
    1 cup cold water
    Combine the jello with the boiling water. Whisk for 2 minutes. Add the cold water. Let it set up in the refrigerator for several minutes - about 10 - until it starts to look like syrup consistency instead of water.
    Pour over the cake.
    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours, up to 1 day in advanced.
    1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
    1 3.5oz box french vanilla instant pudding mix
    1 3.5oz box orange jello
    1 cup milk
    1 tsp vanilla (could use orange?) extract
    8oz cool whip, thawed
    In a mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add ingredients through extract. Beat well. Fold in the cool whip.
    (the frosting was good but I felt like it was missing a little kick - maybe some fresh orange juice or orange or even lemon zest would have brightened it up a little)
    Spread frosting on top of cake. Slice and serve.