Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dixie-Style Dining: Tuna Casserole

I’m so excited to share the first recipe in my summer “Dixie-Style Dining” series.  I’ve been thinking about the right name for this series, and for now I am going to call it “Dixie-Style Dining.”  I’m a big fan of alliteration in a title, so I thought about “Dinners with Dixie,” but I have more than just dinners to share with you… there are some breakfast recipes… some salad dressings… and of course some dinner, too!  (Oh… and there’s a very delicious cake coming your way soon, too!)

I selected a recipe that I never remember my grandmother making to start off.  I picked this one because it looked like it had been used a lot, and because I was in the mood for a comfort-food dinner.  I think we all grew up eating some version of Tuna Casserole, didn’t we?  I liked that this recipe had sautéed onions and peppers.  I knew Ryan would like that!


One thing I like about these recipes is that they aren’t all exact.  I am sure my grandmother made them so many times that she didn’t need to record the measurements.  She probably just knew the right amounts to add because it felt right and looked right.  I like cooking that way when I am not baking.  (Baking tends to need exact measurements.)

I like to think that my grandmother made this meal when we weren’t visiting… and maybe it was just an ordinary night with my grandfather.  I bet they would sit at the kitchen table and she’d bring him a plate and say, “Here you go, hon.”  They always called each other “Hon.”  They might have even watched Jeopardy while they ate… just an ordinary night in a kitchen on Verree Road…



  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • noodles (I used spaghetti, but you could probably use any noodles)
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 can of water
  • 1-2 cans of tuna, drained (she calls for one… I used two because I used a big onion and a lot of noodles)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped


Heat water to boiling and cook noodles to “al dente” texture.  While noodles cook, sauté onion and pepper in a butter (or cooking spray).  When noodles are cooked, add them to the onions and peppers.  Stir in the soup, water, tuna, and eggs.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.


This was a good comfort-food dinner that isn’t too high in fat, but it’s pretty tasty.  I liked the eggs, onions, and peppers in the casserole.  That was a new twist.  Everyone at our house enjoyed it… and we watched Jeopardy while we ate, too!  If you’re looking for something easy and relatively quick for a weekday family dinner, you might want to give this a try!

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Hint of Summer

Happy Monday!  Were you one of the lucky people with a day off today?  I hope so!  I really enjoy any time that I have a Monday off.  It’s so nice to not get the “Sunday Blues.”  How did you spend Memorial Day?

We started with a trip to Home Depot to get some yard work supplies.  We needed new garden hoses and a few other items.  It was already hot and HUMID at 10:00 a.m. this morning!  I knew we were going to have to get to the pool!

We got a little yard work done, and then it was time to head to Ryan’s parents for lunch. 




Sadie always likes to enjoy her lunches “picnic-style” with her cousin Jerry!

Then we finally made it to the pool.  I think that the only way to deal with South Carolina summer heat is to be in water.  I’m a little worried… it’s already pretty hot… and we haven’t even gotten to JUNE yet!  Yikes!  It was SUPER crowded at the pool, but I don’t mind the crowds too much. 


Sadie played and played… and finally passed out.  Ryan said, “Well, I guess the pool won today!”


Here’s Ryan trying out one of the water slides.

We stopped by the Farmer’s Market on the way home to grab a few items. 



I LOVE fresh cherries.



And we enjoyed some corn cooked on the grill tonight.  So delicious. 


Ok… now on to my Summer Blog Project… Some of you guessed it!

I featured this photo yesterday…


… which is my Grandmother’s recipe box.  My Grandmother Dixie was such a wonderful cook.  Our visits to our grandparents’ house were always filled with delicious meals.  This summer, I’m going to be cooking my way through it.  I’m really looking forward to making some of the recipes that I always remember her making for us, like Chicken Divan… but I also can’t wait to cook some of the recipes she had in there that I have never tried!  And I actually tried out one recipe on Saturday!  You’ll have to check back in tomorrow to get that recipe and see photos.

I’m looking for a name for my summer project.  My grandmother’s name was Helen Dixon, but everyone called her Dixie.  I was thinking about “Dining with Dixie,” but I am not sure if that’s the right name.  I need to sleep on it.  Any ideas???

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

Oh my goodness.  I have such exciting news to share.  I have been waiting almost 2 weeks to share this news with you. 

On Friday, my sister Adrienne got up and went to work, not knowing it would be the most memorable day of her life to this point.  In the middle of the day, her boyfriend Paul surprised her by proposing to her!  I am telling you… it was like something out of a movie.  Her students held up signs that said, “Mrs. W, will you marry me?”  Of course, she said yes and was soooo excited!  I am so excited for them. 

We had a little celebration party for them on Friday night.


Food and Champagne



Adrienne loves Skinnygirl Margaritas… so my other sister Meredith and her husband designed this cute label.





Adrienne’s reaction at her little surprise celebration… she didn’t know Ryan, Sadie, and I would be there… or my parents!


I cannot wait to see when and where they decide to get married.  I can’t believe my youngest sister will be married soon! 


Don’t they make a cute couple? 

So everything else about this weekend seems kind of boring now.  But… memorial Day weekend always brings the opening of pools everywhere… so that’s where we spent our day today. 





(ok… just me being weird.  But it’s so cute how little girls walk around with “baby wedgies” isn’t it?)

Last summer, it took Sadie about 1 1/2 months to get up enough courage to go down this blue slide, but today she ran right up the steps and went right down!  She played for 3 hours straight… and I mean NON stop.  She cried when it was time to leave.  I remember how going to the pool was the absolute best thing in the world.  I still kind of feel that way!  Summer is so much fun.

Tonight we decided to have breakfast for dinner.  Sadie helped me prepare this meal. 


She loves helping in the kitchen.  I think it’s so important to get kids involved in the kitchen.  Once I saw an episode of a show with Jamie Oliver, a chef.  I think it was called “Food Revolution.”  He was in a town that had a very high level of obesity, diabetes, etc.  He was in a school and was holding up different fruits and veggies, and asking the kids if they knew what each one was.  I will never forget that episode.  I couldn’t believe the kids couldn’t identify things like potatoes, cucumbers… how sad.  It was mainly because they had never seen those foods being prepared or in their natural state.

Speaking of natural… I’m so excited.  I’ve got a loaf of bread baking right now and this house smells heavenly.  I always wanted a bread machine, and a few weeks ago, I found one in my grandparents’ basement.  I brought it home to try it out.  This is my first bread recipe.  I can’t wait to taste it!

Ok… so a little teaser.  I’ve got a summer blog project that I think I will really enjoy… and I hope you will too.  The project will be revealed tomorrow… but here’s a little preview photo. 


Can you guess my summer blog project???  Leave a comment if you think you know! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mid-Week Date Night

Happy Hump Day!


I started this morning with coffee because there were so many big plans for today!

Today, I chaperoned a group of kids from school on “Limousine Lunch!”  basically, a big white limo picked us all up in front of the school, drove us to a local pizza joint, and then drove us back to school.  (I don’t have pictures to post here because they all have students in them and I didn’t know if I should post them.) 

When we got back, I helped chaperone an “Inflatables Party” all afternoon.  In case you’re wondering… this is not the norm for a day in the life of a Literacy Coach.  these were all rewards for kids who sold a lot on our last fundraiser. :)  But I did enjoy the limo and a lunch away from school!

So… last night I told all of you that I was looking forward to special plans with Ryan.  We had a mid-week date at Zebra Restaurant and Wine Bar in Charlotte.  We had never been there, but we had a Groupon that I got (paid $10 for a $60 gift certificate!) and it was about to expire, so we figured we better use it while we could!

Funny… we were the FIRST people in the restaurant!  We felt like we were getting the “early bird special.”



I started with a Mojito.  I am not sure what made me order this.  I never order mojitos!  It’s an ok drink… and I love mint… but it was really sweet.



pretty herbed butter


salad with olives, capers, and goat cheese (soooooo good—very salty—which is what I like!)


pan-seared scallops on a gnocchi-type cake with roasted peppers (again—soooooo good.  I could have eaten 10 of those scallops.)


Ryan’s entree: free-range chicken with lump crabmeat, asparagus, hollandaise sauce over risotto


My entree: beef tenderloin with mushrooms and fingerling potatoes, and asparagus


Citrus-flavored soufflé with raspberry sauce… again—wonderful.  We said we weren’t hungry at all and then we ate the whole thing.  Our server brought out this wonderful fluffy soufflé and when he set it down on the table, he cut a hole in the middle and poured this raspberry sauce inside.  HEAVEN.

All in all, it was a wonderful date night and the food was absolutely delicious.  If you’re local, I would recommend doing the deal that is 5 courses.  You split 3 a la carte items (apps or salads), an entree, and a dessert.  We could have been completely satisfied with that… but we couldn’t do that deal with our Groupon. 


Hope you all had an enjoyable Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crispy Mini Margherita Pizzas

Sometimes you just need a pizza fix, you know?  I have a love-hate relationship with pizza.  I love pizza.  But I hate that it’s so fattening.  So… what’s a girl (or guy—we’re equal opportunity here at Confessions of a Former Couch Potato) to do?

Friends, I have got your answer: Crispy Mini Pizzas… Crispy Mini Margherita Pizzas, to be exact.


Doesn’t that look delicious?  I promise, it’s light, crispy, and a delicious blend of flavors.  Oh, and did I mention that it takes about 5 minutes to make? 



  • small tortillas (I used Mission Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas—they are only 80 calories!)
  • roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella
  • 3-4 large fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly
  • cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.  Lay tortillas on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 3 minutes, just until the crisp up a little.  Remove from oven.  Spread a light layer of cheese over both tortillas.  Then lay tomato slices and basil on top.  Top with the rest of the cheese.  Pop them back in the oven for 2-3 more minutes, just until the cheese melts. 

These will be crispy and light, and oh-so-delicious. 


So there you go… pizza without the guilt!  Dare I even say they are GOOD for you???

You’re welcome.

Now… on to some related news… another one of my photos was published today!  This time it was published on the Tastespotting web site


See that photo on the left?  It’s my Margherita Chicken Pasta Salad! 

OK… hope you all are having a wonderful week!  The husband and I have special plans tomorrow night… it’s date night!  I can’t wait to tell you about it.  I know it’s gonna be good… and it involves delicious food! 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Baked Spicy Fries and a Chicken Secret

Happy Sunday!  Wow!  It is really heating up here in the south!  We hit the 90s today, I think!  Here comes the hot weather! 

We had a very enjoyable weekend.  I spent some time with friends and got to relax some.


(Beautiful night on the lake with friends!)

Today I had a chance to do some reading.  I’m reading Water for Elephants.  So many people have been talking about it, I had to read it.  It’s a really good book.  I am getting close to the end.  I’ve been reading it on my Kindle!  Have any of you read it?  We may have to have a discussion when I get finished (hopefully tonight!)

We’ve had some enjoyable eats this weekend, but I want to share two things with you tonight!

First up, Spicy Baked Fries! 


These are a staple at our house.  I make them A LOT.  I’m a person who craves salty foods, like chips, cheese, and fries.  But it’s no secret that fries are generally bad for you.  I first started making these baked fries in college, using my toaster oven in my dorm room (violating the fire hazard policy—Oh No!)  But as I got older, I have perfected them, using various yips I have picked up along the way.


  • Russet Potatoes
  • salt
  • sugar
  • pepper
  • Emeril’s Original Essence Seasoning Blend
  • Canola Cooking Spray

Prep: First, cut your potatoes however you like.   I like to cut them so that they look like fries, but there are many ways to cut them.  Now.  Put your potato slices into a bowl of water with about 1/2 tsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt.  It sounds crazy… but the water with sugar and salt helps draw the moisture out of the potatoes.  Soak about 15 minutes.  Then dry potato slices.  Spray a cookie sheet with oil spray.  Lay the slices on the sheet.  The season with salt, pepper, and Emeril’s.  Bake at 400 degrees about 15-20 minutes.  Then remove the sheet from the oven.  Turn each “fry” over.  Spray the slices again, and re-season.  Bake another 10-15 minutes or until crispy! 


YUM!  You’ll never know you’re eating baked fries!

Next up… a chicken secret.  I’ve been baking chicken forever, as I am sure we all have.  However, I have found a secret to baking chicken that will almost always yield tasty, moist, tender chicken.  My secret?  Sear it first in a hot skillet!  I swear, i don’t know how no one ever told me this all these years.  I like to cook mine on the stove for about 3-5 minutes on each side.  Then I cover my skillet and place the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking.  I promise, it is the BEST way to bake chicken!  Searing it first seals in the flavor and the juices!  Tonight we had lemon-pepper chicken, and it was soooooo good!  I wish all of you could have enjoyed dinner with us!





So, friends… the countdown is on… only 2 more weeks of school left!  I can’t believe it!  This has been an amazing year!  But of course summer is SUCH a fun time.  I’m already thinking about all the fun things we can do!  :)