Happy WIAW! Busy, busy is what I’ve been, but I’m back with a very cozy casserole recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, some fall pictures, and even something pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Thanks once again to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting a very awesome virtual get-together.

It just started getting chilly around these parts, and though the leaves are dropping, there’s still lots of fall color. Here’s what the scenery looked like in front of our house the past couple of months:

August 10, 7 a.m., 60s.

September 25, 7 a.m., mid-40s.

October 4, 6 p.m., low 60s.

Why do I take a picture of the road and why at these times? Because I think it’s pretty for one, and also because that’s when my husband leaves for work and when he comes home. :)

After seeing my husband drive off, I headed back in to do some of my own work (feed cats, check fun email, do regular work, maybe laundry). One day I had to run errands and stopped into Best Bagels in Town to get some of their featured flavored coffee as a treat. I noticed some new bagels that morning–PINK bagels! 25% of the proceeds from these pink bagels will go toward breast cancer research. I couldn’t resist, so I got one with pumpkin cream cheese:

Maybe a strawberry cream cheese would have looked prettier, but this tasted great!

If supporting a good cause can be delicious, then I’m all for it!

Over the Columbus Day weekend we did some shopping at Waterloo Premium Outlets. I am glad that my husband enjoys shopping, and he actually has better fashion sense than I do (he gets it from his stylish mom!) With lots of store sales and discount coupons to get the most bang for our buck, I was looking forward to this shopping trip.

But of course, we needed sustenance! Ithaca was on the way and we stopped at our favorite brunch spot called Simeon’s. I always get their quiche, my husband likes their pulled pork sandwich, and we always order steaming mugs of deliciously dark coffee:

Quiche of the day: sausage, roasted peppers, fontina, mozzerella. Last time it was bacon and caramelized onion. The time before that…I can’t remember, but it was delicious!

Savory pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and sweet pickles.

After our wonderful brunch we headed up to the outlet mall. The place was packed, but we were able to slowly make our way around to our favorite stores and picked up a few sweaters, jackets, and small housewares.

It was a great day: beautiful drive, delicious brunch, shopping trip, and another beautiful drive back home!

Dinner that night was leftover chicken enchiladas (delicious recipe found here) but the next day I made my first non-box tuna noodle casserole. I used to like making the box mixes of Tuna Helper, but I won’t ever eat that again after making this homemade casserole! I especially love the addition of Dijon mustard, and after reading a great tuna tip from Whatever is in the Kitchen, using a generous squeeze of lemon helped to brighten up the flavors very nicely. Use whatever cookable vegetables you like, use whatever noodles you like. I love celery but my husband hates it, so I just chop enough for myself and add it to my fresh spinach greens.

Tuna Noodle Casserole, adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe
Serves 4. With side salad, serves 6. :)

Ingredients:

4 ounces dry noodles (anything goes: spaghetti, shells, rotelles, elbows, made of spelt, sprouted grain, or buckwheat)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion or leek
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup broccoli and/or cauliflower florets
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/ 4 cup flour
2 1/4 cups lowfat milk
1/4 cup dijon mustard (add more to taste)
2 5oz. cans water-packed tuna, drained
1 lemon
1/2  cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a large stock pot, boil noodles according to package directions. Drain, set aside.

In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat until frothy. Add onion or leek, cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add broccoli and peas, stir and cook for 1 minute.

Sprinkle in flour, about 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring around until it gets thick and sticks to the veggies before adding more. Slowly add 1/4 of milk, stirring until thickened and heated before adding more. Add 1/4 more milk and stir until it gets thick again. Add 1/4 more milk PLUS mustard, stirring well before adding remaining milk. Stir until heated through.

Adding the milk gradually will make it nice and creamy. I used orange cauliflower, leeks, peas, broccoli, and sprouted grain spaghetti.

Remove from heat, add zest of one lemon to pot, stir. Add tuna fish and stir until incorporated. Stir in juice of 1/2 lemon. Add cooked noodles, stirring gently to coat well. Put in a 8″x8″ pan or 9″x13″ pan (depending if you want thick pieces or thinner ones). Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

I poured about 2/3 of the noodle mix into this 8×8 pan and topped with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until top is golden. Serve with fresh spinach or a side salad and an extra squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve it up on a bed of spinach (no dressing needed.)

Do you have a favorite noodle casserole recipe? (Speaking of casseroles, I wonder if anyone has ever found out what really is in Julie Kotter’s famous Tuna Casserole…)

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My mechanic’s coffee break

One hot, sunny morning, my husband was involved in one of his favorite pastimes: working on the car. He was midway through replacing something important under the hood (I don’t know what it is, but it sure was greasy!) when he decided to take a break, cooling off with a huge glass of iced water followed by a demitasse of espresso. It may seem weird to choose a steaming hot coffee over an iced cold soft drink, but coffee (or espresso, in this case) is just one of those simple pleasures my husband and I enjoy, regardless of how crazy hot it is.

Speaking of hot, did you know the coffee plant was first discovered in Ethiopia? It was the coffee berry–not the bean–that was first consumed for its stimulating effects. Experiments with this “superfood” eventually took place, and people discovered the roasted seed (or bean, as we call it) created a bitter yet stimulating beverage that aided Arab Muslims to stay alert during late-night prayers (perhaps this is the origin of our late-night college cram sessions!) As word of this miracle drink spread, people began to tame the bitter brew, and the drink evolved into what we know and love today in the form of cappuccinos, iced mochas,  sweet Turkish coffees and cans of coffee energy drinks, like the short-lived “Cocoa-Cola Blak” (it definitely tasted like coffee and coke!)

There’s a lot of great dessert recipes that use the wonderful flavor of coffee (my favorite is coffee ice cream) but what about incorporating coffee into a main course?  Meats can certainly benefit from the rich, strong, earthy qualities of the roasted coffee bean, but can vegetarian dishes be just as delicious? There are ways of making it work, and here are some suggestions to use it as a seasoning, hopefully without keeping you up all night:

Coffee marinade: In a ziploc bag, combine a cup of strong coffee with a crushed garlic clove, a teaspoon each of fresh sage, rosemary, and salt with a dash of black pepper. Marinate beef, pork or chicken overnight and cook as desired.

Spiced Coffee Rub: Mix 1 tablespoon instant coffee, 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Rub on meats and refrigerate overnight before cooking as desired. Another version of this recipe can be found here.

Coffee Jam: Thinly slice a round onion and sautee in oil over medium heat until it begins to carmelize, about 7-10 minutes. Add a fat pinch of Kosher salt, fresh thyme, and 1/2 cup strong coffee and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Serve with roasted meats and veggies.

Below is an easy potato side dish I made using just a few spices and it tastes like the potatoes my mom cooks when she makes a pork roast. The potatoes are nicely browned and the mushrooms add a substantial amount of meatiness, without the meat! My favorite part is how the red wine and spices create a rich and flavorful reduction you get in every bite. Serve this up with some steamed kale or green beans and you have a delicious, hearty vegetarian meal for you and your favorite espresso-loving mechanic.

Coffee Pot Roast Potatoes

Coffee Pot Roast Potatoes (serves 2)
You can also make this dish with extra firm tofu instead of potatoes, just reduce the cooking time

Ingredients:

1 pound small round potatoes, quartered (1 to 1 1/2″ chunks)
4 large mushrooms, quartered (cut them to the same size as potato quarters)
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso (or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules)
1/4 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, sage, or rosemary)
dash of cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

In a mixing bowl, combine potatoes with salt, instant espresso or coffee, cumin seeds, and cayenne. Toss with a fork to coat potatoes evenly. Drizzle in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and add garlic, stir to coat.

In a medium sized pot over medium heat, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil, add potatoes and cook until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Slowly add half of wine, cooking until it begins to reduce and thicken. Cover potatoes and cook for five minutes, stirring a couple times. Uncover & cook potatoes for another 3-5 minutes, stirring so all pieces can brown nicely. Add mushrooms and remaining wine, cooking uncovered until liquid begins to thicken. Stir, cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender and mushrooms are cooked through.

Caramelized potatoes are crisp and tender