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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Happy Wednesday! Hope everyone is staying fit and healthy as we continue with “Fun, Food and Fitness” sponsored by the very fit Jenn at Peas and Crayons!

Most of my meals could be considered on the healthy side, but there’s always room for improvement. I tried increasing my raw food consumption, but in effect I also increased calorie intake by eating too many nuts and soaked grain products! So right now I’m trying to figure out what are some good sources of lean (uncooked) protein. Well, yogurt has been working out so far, so I’m going to stick with that. Most other raw sources are high in fat, so if any one has suggestions, please let me know!

The other morning I was very, very tired, even though I slept earlier than usual (because  I was so tired!)  I didn’t do my morning exercise routine, but this morning I felt better so did my exercises, tried doing a hill run (puff, puff!) and came back to a watermelon lassi for breakfast:

Added 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder and juice from 1/4 lime (I like it tart.) A few raspberries made it look pretty.

Lunch was a big bowl of cold watermelon soup…with a twist! I am saving the recipe for Saturday’s Recipe Redux, but I can tell you it was just what I needed for that hot, humid day. I can wait to share the recipe, but I can’t wait to share a teeny portion of my lunch:

green stuff??

Come back on Saturday to view the recipe and the rest of the photo!

I let my husband try some of the watermelon soup as a starter for dinner. He couldn’t eat/drink the whole bowl, I think the flavors were too strong? Green? Piquant? As our main course I made panko-crusted tuna tofu patties: 2 cans water-packed tuna, 1/2 cup medium or firm tofu (more, if you like,) 1 tablespoon white miso paste, 1 teaspoon Spike seasoning, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup shredded carrrots and a  dash of pepper. Squish tofu and tuna together with your hand, mixing well. Stir in rest of the ingredients. Divide into 8 balls, smash lightly to make patties (don’t make too flat, they’ll fall apart.) Coat in mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Coat with panko, crushed corn flakes or crushed corn chips. Fry in hot oil on medium heat until browned on both sides. Serve on buns, with rice, or on a salad:

You can see the big shreds of carrot in the mashed patty on the bottom and the delicious crispy panko coating on the top patty.

My friend Suzi asked me about watermelon sorbets, which I never made before (no ice cream machine.) I tried making one this morning, but since I didn’t add a lot of sugar, the texture just wasn’t the same. Xanthan gum helped to thicken it up and the vodka kept it from turning into a bowl-shaped block of ice, so rather than forcing it to become something else, I just ended up calling it a slushie.

It may look a bit underwhelming, but I urge you to try this recipe. The addition of cayenne and salt amplifies the lime and rounds out the sweet-sour-salty combination nicely. It’s not spicy and if you want to share with kids, simply omit the vodka.

Refreshing Watermelon Slushie
makes about 12 ounces 

1 1/2 cups mashed watermelon, about 2 cups chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 lime (zest first then cut lime in half)
1 tablespoon natural sweetener such as honey or agave (I used the hollowed-out lime rind as my ‘measuring cup’)
1 tablespoon vodka (used the same ‘measuring cup’ as above)
dash of cayenne
incredibly tiny pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (helps thicken it up)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix on low speed until combined. Pour into a shallow bowl or dish and freeze for 1 hour. Stir, breaking up frozen chunks around the edges, and freeze for 2 hours more for slushy consistency.

The lime makes it refreshing, but cayenne and salt adds another dimension to this refreshing, low-sugar version of a classic summertime treat.

Going back to what I was talking about earlier in the post: what are some good sources of protein that are low in fat? How about veggie sources? How do you like to prepare them? I’m looking for more sources, so any suggestions would be most helpful!

“say it with flowers”

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers, and I only really got to see them in real life a couple of years ago when I picked up my beautiful wedding bouquet. Pink-hued roses, tulips and peonies made up this fragrant cluster which felt to me like five pounds worth of flowers! Since moving into our new home, we’ve been surprised with all kinds of flowers blooming around the property, including peonies.

Flowers aren’t the only things that have been thriving on our property (thank goodness!) My lettuce plants have successfully avoided the hungry rabbits and so far I harvested 5 heads. It was time to fill in the bald spots with some new plants, so I added some purple cabbage in between the kale (far left,) reddish-colored lettuce and a cucumber vine in the upper row, and planted a Roma tomato right next to the basket hanger (base of that skinny post in the bottom left corner):

Just the upper section with new plants was watered, we had lots of rain this week.

another 100 days and I’ll be eating home-grown purple cabbage!

Weeding and planting the new veggies made me kind of hungry, so I decided to make an Ultimate Salad for lunch! Although the only ingredient that came from my garden is the two types of lettuce, you gotta admit this salad definitely looks garden fresh! If all goes well, in a few months I should have another four ingredients from the garden: strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage:

The ultimate salad with 14 fabulous ingredients: lettuce, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, cauliflower, apples, grapes, strawberries, dates, tomatoes, avocado, sprouted  sunflower seeds and goat cheese.

My husband likes to have some meat with his meals, so I made him a protein-packed tuna fish-stuffed tomato with a cucumber rosette:

A simple and beautiful gluten-free alternative to a plain ol’ tuna fish sandwich

Earlier this week I received more goodies from my family. My mom made a beautiful drawstring bag from some very special fabric (I will post more on this on Monday!) and my Uncle Paul got me this incredible gourmet bag of peaberry Kona coffee (update 6/17: I initially thought my dad got the coffee, but after reading the post he told me it was Uncle Paul who picked this up for me. Thank you Uncle Paul!) I’ve had 100% Kona coffee before, and not all coffees are the same (Sugai coffee farms also has good quality coffee beans) but this is the first time I’ve ever tried any kind of peaberry coffee:

Hualalai (pronounced “who-ah-lah-lie”) and Mauna Loa are the two volcanoes where Kona farmers grow their world-famous coffee

Peaberry describes the shape of an unfertilized seed in the coffee fruit. Instead of the seed forming two halves that make a whole (think of peanuts, cashews and pistachios that can be split equally down the middle) the fruit has one “pea shaped” seed.

Since the seed shapes are so different, coffee growers sort the peaberries out so as not to have uneven roasting in their batches. Because of this extra labor as well as the belief that a peaberry yields a more evenly roasted bean (thus a more delicious flavor,) peaberry coffee is more costly and often more valued than the other 95 percent of the harvest.

I brewed a cup of Kona peaberry and thought it was a very good coffee. It was flavorful, mild and smooth, and I didn’t need to add any sweetener! It’s such a nice gift from my parents uncle I’ll have to save the rest for Sunday brunches! Have a nice weekend, everybody, and eat (and drink) well!