December 8, 2009

Tunalicious Creaminess…

Posted in Recipes tagged , , , at 7:27 pm by Blondie

Every now and then, perhaps over drinks, folks will start talking about their favorite childhood meal.  Inevitably, someone will bring up Tuna Noodle Casserole. They’ll try to convince you that canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, and crumbled potato chips really do make a lovely meal. That’s disgusting. Really. I can’t believe you voluntarily ate that. Yeah my mom made Tuna Noodle Casserole too. And as a kid, I reluctantly forced each bite in my mouth, trying to focus on the promise of chocolate pudding for desert, instead of the tunalicious creaminess in my mouth. That’s really enough though. Tuna Noodle Casserole is not welcome here.

Yet my dislike of the Tuna Noodle Casserole doesn’t mean that I never use canned tuna as the main protein in my meal. In fact, one of my favorite childhood recipes is all about canned tuna. It is also all about Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Kraft Old English Cheese, and of course, mayo.

Tuna Crescent Roll Surprise was my first foray into cooking. A cooking prodigy at six, I would stand by mom in the kitchen while she was preparing dinner, begging to help. After my mom opened the can, I would dump the tuna into the bowl. Standing on a chair, so I could reach the counter, I would spoon mayo into the measuring cup and then dump it into the bowl with the tuna. After my mom added the pickles and the onions, I would get to stir the creamy mixture together. I remember feeling very proud of myself after I spread Old English Cheese on the Crescent Roll layers. It didn’t much concern me that my mom had to go back over my work to smooth it out.

As I got older, I was allowed to make Tuna Crescent Roll Surprise on my own. It was a tasty, affordable meal, that was easy enough for a 12 year old to make without much supervision. Little did I know, that Tuna Crescent Roll surprise would be a defining moment in my culinary career. Like any great chef, I experimented and cooked with the ingredients I was familiar with. If you spend a good portion of your life thinking that Chicken of the Sea is a delicacy, it’s hard to find a reason to learn to sear Ahi. If the pop of a can presents you with hot, fresh, and flaky bread, why would you spend hours making your own? It really seems a waste of time and money to go to an overpriced deli to purchase specialty cheeses, when Kraft makes cheese that is so nicely packaged in a can and available in the refrigerated section of your local Ralphs. With that in mind, I would like to share the recipe for the first homemade meal I ever made.

Tuna Crescent Roll Surprise


* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles
* 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
* 1/4 cup minced onion
* 1 (9 ounce) can tuna, drained
* 2 eggs, boiled and chopped
* 1 (8 ounce) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
* 1 can Kraft Old English Cheese


1. Heat oven to 375F degrees.
2. Unroll dough into 2 rectangles.
3. Place one on cookie sheet. Place the second on a cutting board.
4. Spread each rectangle with Old English Cheese.
5. Mix tuna, egg, onion, mayo, and pickles together.
6. Spoon tuna mix on dough.
7.Place other rectangle on top.
8. Seal edges.
9. Bake until deep golden brown (about 20 minutes).

December 2, 2009

‘Tis the Season…

Posted in Family, Family Memories, Food, Recipes tagged , , , at 9:14 pm by Blondie

In the retail world, the holiday season begins in November. Somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving, Target sneaks 367 pairs of tacky Christmas socks and 451 red and green potholders into the dollar bins, and all of the sudden it’s Christmas. When I was a kid, the holiday season began with choosing the family Christmas tree. My mom would pack me and my two brothers into the station wagon and drive us to the Christmas Tree Farm. After a quick visit to Mrs. Clause, we would run around the farm, arguing about which tree was best. Now that I am living the dream with boyfriend and kitty in Canoga Park, the Christmas season begins in a new way.

*Musical Interlude* I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas tree. I just want you for my own….more than you could ever know. Make my wish come true. Baby, all I want for Christmas, is you!

Yes, Mariah Carey now marks the beginning of the holidays for me. As I was walking through the mall this past weekend, I heard the sweet serenade of All I Want for Christmas is You and was immediately filled with the Christmas spirit. I might as well have been at Grandma’s house, decked out in my best Santa sweater, baking sugar cookies, while listening to Bing Crosby. Mariah just has that kind of influence in my world. Completely in the holiday mood, I picked up a quart of eggnog. Now some people like their eggnog with rum. I like my eggnog with Pepsi.

Growing up, eggnog and Pepsi was a special family tradition during the Christmas season. My parents liked to spend an evening each year in Rancho Cucumonga, looking at Christmas lights. You know those neighborhoods that decide to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on electricity in order to have lit up mechanical snowmen in their front yard? That was the neighborhood we went to visit. Every year we put on our warmest jackets, hopped in the car, sat in a line of traffic to get into the coveted neighborhood, parked the car, and spent the next hour walking and singing along with electronic Christmas carols while pointing at each ridiculous yet magical display of suburban excess. As if the evening could get any better, my little brothers and I knew that there was a special treat waiting for us when we got home. As we piled out of the car and into the kitchen, chilly from the cold Southern California winter, my dad made us his special eggnog recipe.

So last night, standing in my kitchen, I whipped up a batch of eggnog and Coke* while humming a little Mariah and dreaming of Christmas.

Dad’s Famous Eggnog and Pepsi

1/2 cup Eggnog

3/4 cup Pepsi

Mix well and enjoy!

* Back in the day, we would have never bought organic eggnog. It was only Lady Lee in our house! You may also substitute Coke for Pepsi.

November 30, 2009

Soul Food…

Posted in Soul Food tagged , , , at 10:16 pm by Blondie

There are times when food is less about feeding the stomach and more about feeding the soul. When your soul is feeling bruised from an interview gone awry, and the broken dreams that accompany it, nothing is a better band-aid than fried goodness. However, there are also times when you should realize that your soul is an obese 12-year old trapped in a 30-year old body, and should not be left without parental supervision. Tonight, mom left us home alone, and in charge of dinner.

We inhaled a mixture of buffalo wings, popcorn shrimp, filet-o-fish sandwiches, and chili cheese fries while one of us cheered on the Saints and the other gawked at Tom Brady. But the Saints fan soon realized that the mixture of wine, (sipped from the fine stemless goblets pictured above) ranch soaked buffalo wings, chili cheese, and filet-o-fish leads to an upset stomach and an early food-coma-induced bedtime. The Patriots fan also learned an important lesson, as she realized that Tom married Giselle, and Giselle probably doesn’t gorge herself on fried food found in the frozen section of Albertson’s.

Yeah, this ain’t no fancy food blog.

November 26, 2009

Toast, Gravy, Love…

Posted in Family, Food tagged , , at 6:39 am by Blondie

Chipped Beef on Toast I grew up in the Inland Empire. I’ll give you a moment to get over your seething jealousy….

Most of the population of Southern California loves to hate on the I.E. You mention the 909 and immediately people think you’ve spent most of your life living in a small trailer with 30 of your closest, meth addicted relatives. The mention of the Inland Empire invokes images of a lovely larger tattooed woman wearing a white wife-beater, hot-pink bra, and booty jeans, smoking a cigarette while climbing into her baby daddy’s monster truck. Well friends, this is a myth…most of it at least.

My parents owned a track home at the foot of Mt. Baldy. They had three kids, myself included. As kids, we spent most of our time practicing soccer moves, swimming, or exploring the vacant lot behind our house. We rode bikes with Scott and Tammy from up the street, walked to the store to buy candy, and played too much Nintendo. As far as I remember, we never built a meth lab in my parent’s garage.

My parents originally decided to move to Upland to live out the suburban dream. The prospect of affordable housing, a short commute,  good school districts, and a low crime rate outweighed the fact that they were situated in the middle of no where. But at the time, none of that mattered to me. As a kid, I never knew that Upland wasn’t perfect.  As a kid, I never realized that everyone’s family wasn’t just like mine. Home was home, and that was all.

Part of home was a nightly meal together. If you were home during dinner time, you sat down with the rest of the family and ate whatever was put in front of you. There were no requests and there were no substitutions. If it was there, you ate it. Like most families, the food we ate reflected our culture. Yet our culture was less about the country we originated from, and more about the need for quick, affordable, eats that could easily feed a family of five. Mrs. Garret did not work at our house, and coming home from work to three bratty kids with 146 combined needs didn’t leave much time for whipping up gourmet meals. Thus out of necessity, creativity was born.

Unfortunately, in my family, creativity came in the form of toast and gravy. Leftover chicken? Throw it in with some gravy and eat it over toast! Lunch meat? Dice, mix with gravy, and pour over toast. Frozen veggies? Gravy, toast, of course! Now there is only so much gravy soaked toast that one girl can eat, and many nights my dinner plate was met with a groan. However, there was one gravy-inspired meal that I could never get enough of. That meal was chipped beef on toast with a poached egg.

The combination of egg yolk mixed with gravy is a taste that will enlighten even the most sophisticated palettes. More importantly, chipped beef on toast is the food of love, the food of comfort. As sure as you know you’ve ingested too much sodium, you will know that your chipped beef on toast with a poached egg came from the heart. For your cooking pleasure, on the evening before Thanksgiving, I would like to share the following family recipe:

Chipped Beef on Toast with a Poached Egg


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 2 packages of Carl Buddig beef
  • 1 pinch ground pepper
  • 1 egg, poached


  1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour all at once to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until thickened. Bring to a boil, stir in beef and pepper, heat through and serve over toast. Top with poached egg.