Tuna Noodle Casserole

Good morning and happy Monday to you!  After a glorious weekend with the flamingos, I’m back and ready to tackle the week.

I’ve been spoiled and have seen someone in my family three out of the last four weekends.  And now I don’t really have a date on the calendar to be reunited and I find myself a little homesick.

So last night I was craving comfort food.  You might not know this but tuna noodle casserole is one of my favorite classics from childhood.

It’s warm, cheesy and totally comforting – like a big hug from Mom or Dad.

This version is lightened up from the recipe I grew up eating.  Instead of cream of mushroom soup – a mushroom sauce is made combining milk, chicken stock, onions, flour and lots of mushrooms.

Cheese is added to the sauce so that each and every bite has a little bit of cheese.  Green peas add great texture with little pops of flavor here and there.

Before baking, the casserole is topped with more cheddar and a breadcrumb mixture with parmesan cheese.  A little more cheesiness and a little bit of nuttiness.

Y’all – this turned out way better than I expected and might even be more delicious than what I remember.

Warm.  Comforting.  Cheesy.  And a little crispy around the edges and on top (my favorite bites!).

I opted to go the gluten-free route and used gluten-free brown rice noodles and rice flour.  I also don’t believe in reduced-fat cheese so I used regular sharp cheddar.

If you are in need of a hug, this casserole is for you.

(And if you’re not a fan of tuna – which I know a lot of folks aren’t – you can totally substitute chicken.)

Flamingo Fling

My Momma has been daydreaming of an annual girls weekend at the beach for a few years now.  After years of dreaming, it’s finally a reality.  I’m currently beach-bound with an ETA of 11am for a weekend with my Momma, my sister and my sister-in-law.  And I couldn’t be more excited to pop a bottle of bubbly and get the weekend started with three of my favorite girls.

Flamingo Fling is here!  See ya next week.

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{virtual} coffee chat

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If we were having coffee this morning…We’d meet up at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill.  I found this coffee shop on a list of “America’s Best Coffee Bars” and now it’s on my list of places to visit.

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d tell you about the restaurant I went to last Friday with my parents for lunch.  Whenever I go to Charlotte to visit my family I make grand plans to visit somewhere new.  It doesn’t always happen but last weekend we were able to try Napa on Providence.  I loved reading their wine list and seeing wineries that Big Guy and I visited earlier this year when we were in Sonoma.  I started with a glass of a 2013 Pinot Noir from Sonoma that NoP keeps on tap.  I typically order a white wine or Prosecco if I’m out to lunch but I just couldn’t resist a red.  So good.  My Momma and I shared a bowl of the seasonal gazpacho which was a cold soup made with pineapple and bell pepper.  Incredibly refreshing.  And for my lunch, a Smoked Salmon Cobb Salad.  The dressing was one of the best dressings I’ve ever had.  And I eat a lot of salads.

If we were having coffee this morning…I might show you a picture of the new pillows I got for the living room.  We’ve been talking about accent pillows since the couch was delivered and we just haven’t fallen in love with anything yet.  Until I saw the zebras in Charlotte while doing a little shopping with my parents.  I snapped a pic and sent it to Big Guy and after his approval, I was walking out the door with these beauties.  (pillows from Bedside Manor located near South Park in Charlotte)

If we were having coffee this morning…I would apologize for not sharing more recipes this week.  Big Guy has been in Costa Rica all week so it’s been easy to let excuses keep me from cooking.  The recipe finally happened last night (that was supposed to happen Monday and then Tuesday) and it wasn’t worth the hour that it took to prepare.  Just being honest.  Since I haven’t been cooking much, I’ve been making snack plates for dinner.  But I won’t complain.  I love cheese + crackers + hummus + veggies.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would recommend you try this Spicy Yellow Lentil hummus.  It’s a little spicy and a lot of delicious.  I’ve been enjoying it all week long.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would bring you some chips to try.  Random, I know.  I found them at Sam’s Club but I can’t find much about them online.  They’re good!  Crunchy and light.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that I have two beach weekends planned this month and I can’t contain my excitement.  I haven’t been to the beach since Memorial Day and that is very out of character for me.

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If we were having coffee this morning…I would recommend this bottle of red wine.  This bottle was included in a 6-pack sampler we bought at The Raleigh Wine Shop last month.  This bottle is about $20 and I highly suggest you find a bottle to try if you’re into red wine.  I plan on buying another bottle or two.

 Carlania Celler “El Petit Carlania” 2013 offers a light-bodied look and feel. It is lively and fresh, with ripe red plum aromas and winsome blue floral and herbal notes; a sip communicates cherry, appetizing bitterness, and tannins with a slight chew. {source}

red

If we were having coffee this morning…I would give you one more product recommendation (promise!).  I eat Greek yogurt 4 out of 7 mornings (very scientific guesstimate there) each week in some way.  I usually eat plain 0% Greek Yogurt (Fage is my favorite) but I found this coffee flavor of Chobani and I couldn’t resist.  I enjoyed this cup of yogurt for lunch earlier in the week and it tasted JUST like coffee (which I enjoyed).

yogurt

If we were having coffee this morning…We’d take a trip down memory lane.  Last weekend I played with my old Barbies with my niece.  I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years since I played with them and they’re still as fashionable as always.  (Though I really tried to talk Haines out of that green/red dress – but she was determined that “Stacy” need to wear that dress.)

barbie

If we were having coffee this morning…I would leave you with a hug and this:

Tazza Kitchen {restaurant review}

Y’all know I love dating my husband. {Which is a good thing.}

But life lately has been hectic.  And all over the place.

I’m not complaining – just stating some facts.

So our usual Friday night date nights and Saturday dates at home have had to fall to the wayside.

But don’t think we’re not still dating – we just have to go out on a date when it works.  So this past Sunday, on our way home from visiting my family, we made a stop in Raleigh for lunch and pizza ingredients.

Tazza Kitchen has been my “restaurant bucket list” for over a year and we finally checked it out.

Tazza Kitchen is a casual eatery with locations in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The seasonal menu highlights ingredients sourced from dozens of farmers and food artisans, wood-fired cooking, and influences from Southern Italy and Baja California. The craft beverage program features unique small-production wines, innovative local brews, and cocktails made with premium spirits and the freshest ingredients

We started the date with a round of drinks.

A Screwdriver for the Mr. and a Sweet Disposition for the Mrs.

SCREWDRIVER / luksusowa vodka, fresh squeezed orange juice, bitters, mint, rocks

SWEET DISPOSITION / beefeater gin, lemon, sugar, sparkling, muddled blackberries, sage

My sparkling cocktail was absolute perfection and I cannot wait to recreate this sweet drink at home.  I’ve made gin + bubbles cocktails before but I’ve never added sage.

It didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted for lunch.  I usually order a salad but I could not resist the crabcake benedict.

CRABCAKE BENEDICT / crispy country ham, poached eggs*, arbol hollandaise, herb salad, charred lemon

crab cake egg ben

This dish was decadent and rich without being overly heavy.  The eggs were perfectly poached.  The country ham was tender and salty.  And the sauce!  Oh, that sauce.  Creamy and dreamy.  The herb salad added a POP of freshness and the charred lemon squeezed over the plate added just the right amount of zip.  Oh, and the crabcakes – crab > filler/breadcrumbs.  And that’s a good thing.

Big Guy ordered a sandwich:   MEATBALL / basil & mint pesto, sweet fennel tomato sauce, aged provolone, toasted baguette

I hope to return to Tazza Kitchen for dinner sometime soon.  I’ve already scoured the menu and a few things caught my eye:

CAST IRON GOAT CHEESE / marinara, parsley, brick oven bread

(because, duh – goat cheese)

SPICY SAUSAGE & BLACK PEPPER HONEY / aged provolone, fresh mozzarella

(I’m obsessed with pizza and black pepper honey is oh-so intriguing)

SCALLOPS / creamed corn risotto, oven roasted corn, chives, basil mint pesto

(I heart risotto – especially when corn is involved)

GREYHOUND / luksusowa vodka, grapefruit shrub, basil, expressed grapefruit, rocks

(herbs in cocktails are my jam)

A delicious lunch.  And even better date.

Corn Cilantro Jalapeno Pizza

Pizza was a very wise decision last night.  After several weeks, maybe months, without pizza it was about time.

For the crust, I used my go-to recipe from Seriously Delish.  It’s a super simple, no-fail recipe that only requires about an hour and half of rising time.

The crust is puffy yet sturdy and seriously delicious.

The toppings really make this pizza special and so summery.

Despite the amount of tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter currently, the pizza sauce is not tomato-based.  Instead it’s a mixture of cilantro, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt.  I could drink this sauce.

After the pizza dough is rolled out, cover the crust in the cilantro sauce and then top with charred corn (I used my cast iron skillet), sauteed chorizo, jalapeno slices, fresh mozzarella and shredded pepper jack cheese.

pizza

Quite possibly the best pizza of 2015 and definitely in the top five pizzas I’ve ever eaten.

The cilantro sauce is absolute perfection.  A little heat from the jalapeno and chorizo.  Lots of texture from the chewy crust and the tender corn.  Melty, ooey, gooey cheese.

From the garden, I was able to use our corn, jalapenos and onions.

And now I can check pizza off my list of “five things.”

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!  I am currently en route to my parents house and I am so excited to see the family.  There are two main things on the agenda for the weekend:  horse around with my niece and nephew (perhaps a visit to the pool) and spend a little time with my Mimi (grandmother).  I haven’t been home since February since we usually meet up at the beach so it’s about time I make the trek.

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Here are my favorites from the last week of July:

Favorite Homegrown:  Hot Pepper Jelly.  I never know what to do with all the extra jalapenos that are growing in the garden.  But now I do.

 

Favorite Slice:  Charred Corn with Rosemary Grilled Pizza.   Ugh.  We haven’t had a pizza night in far too long.  That needs to change.

 

Favorite Scoop:  Sea Salt and Vanilla Fudge Chunk Ice Cream.  Any ice cream name including “fudge chunk” is an ice cream I want to meet.

 

Favorite Unexpected: Girl and the Goat Magic Beans.  Green beans rarely make my “favorite” list because they’re pretty basic.  But these sound ahhhh-mazing.  A little bit of Asian flair and crunchy cashews.

 

Favorite Throwback:  Honeycomb Cereal Pound Cake with Salted Honey Buttercream.   Please tell me you grew up eating Honeycomb Cereal.

 

Favorite Drool:  Gouda Mac and Cheese with Peaches and Prosciutto.  I can’t even handle this bowl of creamy deliciousness.

 

Favorite Combination:  Coconut Oat Bars.  Oatmeal cookie on the bottom, coconut macaroon on top.

 

Favorite On the Side:  Peach and Corn Coleslaw.  This would be really good next to ribs or barbecue chicken.  Just sayin’.

 

Favorite Wanderlust:  Gorgeous Seaside Towns in Italy.  Take my breath away…

 

Favorite Want:  City Slim Clutch.  Pineapples, palm trees, flamingos.  These are a few of my favorite things.

Favorite Must: Goat Cheese Guac Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Cheddar.  I’ve only been thinking about this burger since May.

Favorite Bubbles:  White Nectarine Prosecco Sangria with Ginger + Elderflower.  Refreshing and so totally summer.

Cheers!

Five Things

I’ve been known to make a Summer Bucket List but this year I decided against setting myself up for failure and decided to just make a Summer Reading List.  (Which, by the way, I only have one book left and it’s currently being shipped to my door step.)  With August only a few days away, I find myself creating a list of things I want to accomplish in August. Funny thing is, they’re all food or drink.  I’m sure none of you are surprised.  The list isn’t long because I’m trying to be realistic – there are only so many days I have to cook between now and my birthday.

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Lemon Bars

Lemon bars have made an appearance on Friday Favorites more than once.  That means they need to happen.

Burger

I already have plans for when this is happening.  This sparks from a bottle of wine from SoCo last year that I was encouraged to age until August.  And with that bottle, a burger was recommended.  Maybe this one or even this one.

Spicy Margarita

Maggie and I talked about spicy margaritas a few weekends ago and now I must have one before the summer comes to an end.  And I think Maggie needs to be around for the cocktail sippin’.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a new addition to my “must make now” list.  I’m eyeing Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe after Jen blogged about them…again.

Barbecue Chicken

Another recent craving.  I’m talking chicken thighs with thick, sweet but spicy barbecue sauce.  And corn as a side dish would be perfect.