Category Archives: Pasta

A Mean Tuna Pasta

My mom makes a mean tuna pasta.

When Kyle and I first started dating—back when I was a youngin of only 16 years old and we still pretended to sleep in separate bedrooms when he stayed over at my parents’ house—my mom decided to make said pasta one evening for dinner. As we walked downstairs to the dining room, Kyle confessed to me that he really didn’t like tuna. I assured him that my mom wouldn’t be offended (she’s an amazing cook so I think she knows by now that if someone doesn’t like one of her dishes, it’s their problem and not hers).

Kyle proceeded to scarf down an entire bowl—and then asked for seconds. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, ‘gosh, he’s really good at faking it.’ I assumed it was part of his Southern boy politeness (I still couldn’t get over the fact that he called my parents ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ for crying out loud). Afterwards, he confessed that it was one of the best pastas he had ever had. I told you it was good.

Naturally, when my mom gave my sisters and I recipe books last Christmas, this tuna pasta was one of the first entries. She must have photocopied it from some magazine years ago.

 

But the first time I made this pasta on my own, I realized that the recipe is almost entirely irrelevant. It did not taste the same—and it occurred to me that during the dozens of times I’d watched my mom make this dish, I hadn’t seen her use a measuring tool once, let alone follow a recipe.

So, while I often enter the kitchen with the goal of making something original and interesting, when it comes to dishes like this tuna pasta, my only ambition is to make it taste exactly like it does when my mom makes it. Sure, I could always just ask her what exactly she does differently–but where’s the fun in that?

It’s taken some trial and error, but I think I’ve finally nailed the tuna pasta. When I made this last night, I couldn’t stop pestering Kyle: “Doesn’t it taste just like Anne made it?!?” His mouth was too full to reply, which I’ll take as a good sign.

The trick seems to be this: more sauce, more tuna, and more veggies (cooked, not raw) so that the pasta-sauce ratio is nearly equal.

This is a perfect summertime (or any time) pasta: light and healthy, but still oh-so-flavorful. Give it a go—even if you don’t like tuna.

Mom’s Mean Tuna Pasta

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 3 heaping tablespoons capers
  • 3 7 oz. cans tuna, drained
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 ½ cups broccoli florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • Plenty of olive oil and salt
  • 12 oz. of pasta*
  • Parmesan cheese, for grating

 In a large sauce pan, heat the shallot in a generous coating of olive oil. Add the carrots and continue to stir until softened (about 8 minutes). Add the peas and broccoli and, again, stir until softened. You may want to continue to add olive oil as you add veggies—and, of course, sprinkle with salt to taste. Finally, add the red bell pepper, stir until softened, then turn off the heat. Add the tuna and capers.

 Boil a large pot of water, add the pasta, and cook. While waiting for the water to boil, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar and thyme.

 Add the cooked pasta to the veggie and tuna mixture. Poor the olive oil and vinegar mixture over the pasta and stir to combine. Serve warm in individual bowls (it’s great cold, too) and top with grated parmesan cheese. 

 *Normally, I would make this with bow ties but since Kyle and I are moving to a new apartment in only a couple short months, I’m trying to empty out our pantry so I used whole wheat penne instead.

Like everything else in my life, I like my pasta colorful.

Speaking of colorful, look who’s finished:

 

While my fingers are very fond of crocheting these days, sewing together granny puffy squares is only slightly more fun than stitching together knitted seams. Still, though the final construction of this scarf wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the individual components, the end result is just what I’d hoped for.

 And if you thought scarf season was over…you clearly don’t live in Boston. It’s a cold rainy morning and my landlord apparently doesn’t believe in heating the building post-March so I’m happy to have a scarf to wear today.

 

Meanwhile, my crochet kick is still going strong:

 

As for my double wedding ring quilt…well, I’ve been using my seam ripper as much as my sewing machine, but it’s getting there.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to think of some indulgent treat to make this weekend since I can no longer turn to my chocolate pudding in times of stitching-induced anxiety. Sadly, I finished it off post-pasta last night, topped with a roasted marshmallow and graham cracker leftover from last weekend’s dessert-making binge:

Oh warm chocolatey goodness, I will miss you. Fortunately, I buy my sugar in bulk at Costco, so I’m sure I’ll figure out a comparably indulgent substitute soon.

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Freak Flags and Fads

I like to crochet in unusual places. For instance, in my car when I’m stuck in bad traffic:

 

If I’m stuck at a really long red light, I’ll even weave in and trim the loose ends, thus my cup holder is actually full of scraps of yarn:

 

Last night, I knit in Noir bar while enjoying an LA Confidential (stoli peach, cointreau, peach nectar & champagne) and waiting for my dinner companion. Yes, I have no pride shame. But hey, we all have our freak flags­—it’s just that some of us wave them a little higher than others.

Fortunately, Welton arrived soon enough and we enjoyed a delicious dinner (not to mention inexpensive: Noir has to have the best happy hour deal in town with $5 flatbreads, $4 sandwiches, $3 salads, $2 snacks, $1 sweets, and free nuts!)

 

That glorious looking goo would be gruyere, spinach, and bacon dip. There are no words—and there wasn’t any left by the time we were through, either. I love eating with Welton because, like me, he has a hearty appetite. The only alarming thing about our dining together, however, is the mound of perfectly polished-off plates at the end of the meal.

For some reason, I was in the something uncharacteristically simple as my main course: a three-cheese pizza with spicy tomato sauce and caramelized onions. Of course, I dipped this baby in the gruyere goodness so it wasn’t really all that simple in the end:

 

It tasted just as good as it looks, and reminded me that I haven’t made my own pizza in quite some time…

Actually, I’m having a bit of a dilemma these days. I’ve been meaning to watch Food, Inc. for a while, but I’ve also been skeptical about this film since, like many young women, I’ve gotten caught up in diet fads in the past and it did me no good—I now try to avoid all that food hysteria and eat everything in moderation (most of the time…).

Anyway, on Wednesday night I took the plunge and squeezed in the first 15 minutes of this film before making dinner for some friends. So far, I’m sensing that the gist is this: be very careful about where your meat comes from. I respect that message, I really do. And I hope I can become a bit more conscious of it. I’m also really trying to be slightly vegetarian, especially when eating at home…but it’s hard! Gosh, I even contemplated buying turkey bacon for Wednesday night’s meal, but that lasted a whole two and a half seconds. Who am I kidding. What’s pasta carbonara without real, fatty, crispy bacon?

 

Some things you just can’t substitute. This was one good pasta, if I do say so myself, and I credit that to the fact that the sauce contained a good dollop of bacon fat (and plenty of butter). That being said, I’m an animal lover—believe it or not, I dream of the day when my house is full of giant pet bunnies and teacup pigs. I’ll never be a full-on vegetarian, but I’m going to suck it up, finish Food, Inc., and hopefully approach my meat consumption with a bit more awareness.

Meanwhile, bacon was actually buy one get one free at the grocery store so I have a whole lot in my fridge—I also happen to have plenty of cheese and a bag of spinach. Dare I attempt to make my own cheese-spinach-bacon dip?

My lovely dinner left me feeling rather energized so I went home, put on some elastic-wasted pants, and filled my sink with warm water and laundry detergent. My hand-dyed fabrics are now washed and hanging to dry, ready for my patchworking pleasure. Let’s admire them one last time (and ignore the blurry shot), shall we?

 

Other weekend plans include an Owl City concert and bike ride to Concord Center.

Sigh, life is good. This morning’s sing-along of choice: Cat Stevens. I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.

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When It Works

I’m not even sure how to begin describing the bliss of the past 48 hours. To say I had a ‘good’ weekend doesn’t quite capture it—but I also wouldn’t use the word ‘perfect,’ since it’s not really about perfection. ‘Productive’ isn’t right because it implies discipline, whereas I enjoyed every little ounce of the past two days, doing exactly what I felt like doing every step of the way.

That being said, I accomplished a lot—too much, in fact, for a single post. So I won’t be sharing the highlight of the weekend for a couple of days (a decision that will become clear when I do post it). How’s that for some incentive to check back soon? 🙂

So, where to begin? I guess from the top. After a long Friday night, Kyle and I decided to unwind with absurdly large margaritas:

 

Then something strange happened. We went home with every intention of crashing, but I got the sudden urge to bake cookies. Now, I hardly ever bake cookies—in fact, I don’t bake much at all aside from bread since I’m really more of an ice-cream-for-dessert kind of girl. Apparently, margaritas put me in the baking mood. I followed this super simple recipe for peanut butter cookies, broke out a tub of strawberry ice cream, and made peanut butter and jelly ice cream cookie sandwiches:

 

So you see, even when I do bake, I’m creating a vehicle for ice cream.

After a wonderful, long run on Saturday morning, I decided I needed to shake things up in the breakfast department. Since I usually eat breakfast in a hurry at work, I have the same thing 95% of the time: Greek yogurt, a banana, and instant oatmeal. It’s fairly nutritious (though I recently learned that the instant stuff really isn’t all that great for you due to the abundance of folic acid), but also a tad redundant. So I decided to break out my jar of old fashioned oats and make oatmeal pancakes:

 

Each pancake consisted of: ¾ cup of oats, 1 egg, a splash of milk, 1 heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Kyle is more of a berry man, but I stuck with my usual banana as a topping (and yes, I still had my Greek yogurt on the side—baby steps, people), and I topped both pancakes with a drizzle of syrup.

I spent the rest of my morning finishing up my latest sewing project. There are no words, no real way to explain this one, so I’ll let the picture speak for itself:

 

Yes, I made a giant flannel patchwork elephant (Flannelphant?) I wish I could explain this one with some clever story or other type of justification, but I’m still not entirely sure what inspired me. All I know is, he brings me immense joy. I guess it makes sense: I love patchwork and I love elephants. There you have it.

I love to cook, but I’m not always in the mood to spend hours preparing a meal—however, for some reason, I couldn’t get enough kitchen time in this weekend. Saturday night, I decided to make my own noodles following this very unintimidating recipe from Sugarlaws (I recently discovered this blog and I love it!) The noodles came out a tad thick, but that wasn’t such a bad thing since it meant they had a gnocchi-like consistency: hearty and satisfying.

 

I covered them with a sauce made of: full-fat yogurt (leftover from last weekend’s naan), garlic, spinach, salt, and a few roasted tomatoes.

 

The original Saturday night plan was to lay low and get to sleep early since I really wanted to go to Emily Shea’s Sunday morning class at Baron Baptiste. No offense to the other Baptiste teachers, but Emily is by far my favorite. I don’t go to yoga for a lifestyle lecture or spiritual awakening—Emily makes me laugh even while my thighs are burning from the inside out, and I appreciate that.

Well, the laying low didn’t really work out: Kyle and I ended up meeting friends for drinks at Sagra, where I made it my mission to try out as many different mojitos as possible. The champagne mojito won out in the flavor-department, but the blueberry mojito was the prettiest:

 

I was fairly certain this would mean no yoga for me, but I mysteriously woke up about half an hour before yoga class started, so I sucked it up and went. Emily is also the kind of teacher who tells you that it’s perfectly acceptable to spend the entire 90 minutes in child’s pose if need be, and really seems to mean it—I haven’t had to do this yet, but it’s a nice back up. I half expected to be sweating blue, but no such luck. In fact, it was a surprisingly awesome class considering my Saturday night escapades. Like I said, it was just one of those weekends where nothing could get me down.

Afterwards, I made myself baked banana oatmeal consisting of: ¾ cups oatmeal, ¼ cup of mashed banana, ¼ cup whole milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I topped it off with some sliced banana, and baked it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

 

 While not drastically different then my weekday routine, there was something so nice about taking a little extra time at breakfast to revel in the leisurely pace that my weekend mornings afford.

The rest of my day was a haze of crafting bliss, but this is the post that I’ll be sharing in a couple of days. Fast forward to Sunday evening: I was back in the kitchen making Sugarlaws whole wheat parmesan bread.

 

I was a little skeptical about this recipe since you don’t proof the yeast first, but combine it with the flour, salt, and sugar, then add hot water. Of course, this made me nervous and I had my usual bread-baking self-doubts, but yet again, the yeast didn’t let me down. This is a fabulous bread: very crusty on the outside,  yet soft and moist on the inside. However, I would add more parmesan next time since it really was a very subtle flavor.

I couldn’t subject Kyle to two meatless dinners in a row, so I used this bread to make meatball subs (the recipe makes 8″ mini loaves which are just the right size):

 

We topped them off with Provel cheese that my grandmother sent a while back (I froze a few slices for special occasions such as this). This is a fabulous cheese that is a St. Louis specialty. It’s a combination of Swiss, Cheddar, and Provolone, and has a soft, butter-like texture. Thank you, Grandma!

After dinner, I finished up the most painful part of the sweater-making process: the seaming. I mean, does anyone like doing this? It took 3-4 hours (I tried not to watch the clock since I really should have been sleeping at this point), but the patchwork cardigan is fini:

 

 It fits!

 

And I love it.

Whether you’re a chef, baker, knitter, sewer…or anyone who make things, you know that you are bound to have disappointments. I can’t tell you how many subpar sweaters I’ve knit, or how many bland dinners I’ve produced. But I honestly do love the processes—whether cooking, sewing, or knitting—enough to not be bothered. That being said, it’s really nice when these endeavors work, when you experience a sense of accomplishment and pride in what you’ve created. It’s not about perfection (like I said, my noodles were super thick, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to look too closely at my cardigan’s shoulder seams), but it is about setting expectations, striving for your best, and taking the time to do it right.

I don’t mean to be preachy, and I try to avoid getting overly sappy on the blog as well—but I can’t end this post without noting that one of the most important things about a weekend like this is the person you share it with. All my crazy crafting and cooking escapades wouldn’t be as fun if it weren’t for the man who is ever-so-patiently by my side through them all, who doesn’t blink (too much) when I present him with a giant patchwork elephant, who happily eats whatever I happen to feel like making, who snoars waits patiently on the sofa instead of going to bed without me when I announce that I will not sleep until my sweater is finished (and who then takes pictures of said sweater for the blog). Kyle and I have been together for more than seven years, so it probably goes without saying that I’m more than a little fond of him, but weekends like this really remind me that I snagged a good one—and he deserves a thank you.

When you see how I spent my Sunday afternoon, you’ll really understand what I’m talking about.

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