Not Your Mother’s Tuna Salad

 

I don’t make tuna salad like anyone else I have ever known, not even my own mother. I don’t remember having tuna salad sandwiches much growing up, probably because my small herd of younger brothers considered it to be a ‘Girl Food’ and disliked tuna in general unless it was thoroughly hidden in a thick casserole of egg noodles, creamy white sauce and cheese.

I moved from my family’s home to my husband’s without a lot of thought thrown towards cold salad sandwiches, I was more intent on trying to impress my dearly beloved with good roasts and fluffy pancakes. One day, early on in the marriage, he requested tuna salad for dinner. Thinking back on it now, I do believe it was the first food he asked for as a married man and I remember my wifely heart sinking a little.

“Tuna salad – really?” I didn’t even remember how to make a tuna salad.

“Oh yeah, tuna salad. With pickles and artichokes…” My husband licked his lips and wandered out of the kitchen, leaving me in dumb bewilderment. Pickles and artichokes? In a tuna salad? But how? What’s an artichoke?

Let me remind my dear reader that this was slightly before the Great Revelation that he didn’t really care for Butter – something which he very neatly announced at dinner one evening and nearly made me choke on my own life’s breath – so I wasn’t yet *fully* acquainted with my new husband’s eating preferences. There’s so much adjusting that goes on in those first few months, it’s a little dizzying and love truly makes the dance worth while.

I got out my mixing bowls, some cans of tuna and anything else in the cupboard I thought seemed appropriate. In the very back I found a can of quartered artichoke hearts, and hidden in the far reaches of the refrigerator I found a half-eaten jar of pickles, some mayo and then I had at it.

Fifteen nerve-wracking minutes later (give or take a few) and I was serving Alex the strangest tuna salad that ever was seen on this or any other planet and let me tell you what – it was awesome. I’ve been making tuna salad a’la Alex for over a year now, almost monthly as it is one of his most favorite things to eat, and we’ve tweaked the recipe into a true Gaylor Family Heirloom.  Are you brave enough to try it?

 

Tuna Salad with Pickles and Artichokes

2 cans of white tuna (packed in water) – drained

2 spears kosher dill pickles, chopped into small pieces

1/4 cup finely diced onion

4-5 quarters of canned artichoke hearts, chopped

1/2- 2/3 cup mayonnaise  (make sure to use the real stuff – no Miracle Whip!)

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning  (generic, salt-less blend available at the grocery store)

*anything else*

This includes (but is surely not limited to):

Chopped tomato, diced celery, chopped sweet pepper, chopped olives or avocado chunks. Instead of the seasoning, you could use a tablespoon or more of your favorite salad dressing – Italian, Caesar, French, Balsamic… the sky’s the limit. We’ve tried about every combination of additions and find it hard to make something that isn’t tasty.

Dump ALL of your ingredients into a bowl and mix them together well. I usually add the mayonnaise last because depending on what else we’ve tossed in I might need a little more or less. We are not ones to like our tuna salad on the sloppy side, so I tend to go light on the mayo, but that’s just us.

There are about as many methods of consuming this food as there are of preparing it. We like to eat it late at night, squeezing too much between two slices of homemade bread – what a mess! Or we eat it on top of a green salad, or stuffed in a hollowed-out tomato, or scoop generous bites of it up with crackers while watching movies. It’s an easy, satisfying sort of meal that I would never have truly appreciated had it not been for my husband’s rather odd request. So there you go!  I suppose there isn’t anything “too strange” to try, at least in the kitchen…

 

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Harvest Party

It’s coming into harvest time, and what a time it is! Probably my favorite of the year… but I say that about every season, I think…

Our modest little garden has outdone itself and far outreached our meager expectations of it, we’ve had tomatoes like crazy as well as four good pickings of green beans, enough cucumbers to keep us on our toes and all the salad we could eat in earlier months. It’s been wonderful. We planted three types of tomatoes, one was an early producer with well mannered plants and petite, perfectly shaped fruit and the other two are monster heirloom varieties that sprawled everywhere and literally ate one of their unassuming pepper plant neighbors. They produced frighteningly large, misshapen tomatoes and several green peppers (not really, it only seemed like that because I waded into them the other day and recovered the consumed plant, finding that in spite of its interment with the Amazonian tomatoes, it still managed to pop out a couple of peppers… amazing.)

I feel it only fair to mention that Alex took the lovely, well-behaved ones under his gentle wing in the Spring and tied them up nicely and cared for them, thus creating a lush tomato paradise, while the feral heirlooms were my territory. No tying, no gentle wing, just wild, uninhibited growth. One of us is a real gardener, the other is something of a impatient seed scatterer. It will be fascinating to see what comes of our children….

We didn’t grow any zucchini this year, I was banking on the fact that come August, everyone has zucchini in abundance and I would be able to get some for little or no money. I was right! A friend of ours donated three HUGE zucchini to our harvest cause and I was able to freeze seven quarts of shredded zucchini one morning. There is no room for anything else in our apartment-sized fridge freezer, but by golly – we’ll have zucchini coming out our ears till May.

I’ve made nearly two gallons of fresh garden salsa- all from our own tomatoes and peppers and ruined a huge pot of would-be spaghetti sauce, please don’t ask how – it was tragic and I haven’t really forgiven myself yet. Here me now – I will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever again use identical containers to store salt and sugar. I will not forget to label said containers. I will not automatically assume that I have the right container and continue to add the WRONG thing to my sauce, ending with a salty, inedible MESS. Never. EVER. The End.

It’s been grand and we are so thankful to Alex’s mom for giving us her beautiful garden boxes, to our Landlord for letting us hog his tiny yard, and most of all to our Lord, who sent the rain and sun and gave the increase. Praise God from whom ALL blessing flow… Amen.

homeschool heartache

“OUCH!”

My husband says,

“My face hurts – I feel like I just got slapped with Home-school.”

He loves to tease me about my history as a geeky home-schooler and it gets worse when I talk about knitting sweaters for fictional literary characters, or admit that I had a wicked crush on Jimmy Stewart as a teen and not Brad Pitt, or argue that the Civil War had precious little to do with slavery. His life with me has been one very long slap of home-school. What can I say – I’m his first home-school experience, I want him to get his money’s worth.

I have little home-school moments when I feel like no one understands me and I revert to a Jane Eyre-esque state of stoic hysteria.

 

“Do you think that because I was home-schooled I have no heart? No sense of fashion? A slanted education? No interest in the world around me? No understanding of popular culture? No dreams, no needs, no desires?”

 

 

Then sometimes, it’s more like this:

 

I am a Home-schooler. Hath not a home-schooler eyes? Hath not a home-schooler hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter
and summer, as a public schooler is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

 

I’m talking sackcloth and ashes home-school heartbreak.

Then I get over it and move on to the next sweater, the next fond memory of my dead-man crushes, the next argument about states’ rights and how I think pot should be legalized.

Ok, that last gem was more of a Hippie thing than a Home-school thing.

Just sayin’.

 

the big binder theory

‘… zealfully attending life …’

She attended life with her accustomed zeal – and now – with organization.

The Big Book of Organization

This is my Big Book of Organization. I am very pleased with myself for having created one, but I can’t take the credit for the idea. My friend Maureen is the most organized person I have ever met. Just being around her is like being embraced by every handy, nifty, thrifty, clever, ingenious, and downright organized household trick ever conceived by man or wife. I mean, this woman has a system for *everything* from getting the absolute lowest price at the meat counter to menu planning and keeping the bathrooms clean. I’ve never been in a house that is run so smoothly – it’s almost a bit surreal. I’ve watched her cook in utter fascination as every container is marked, every recipe filed away under some encoded system that she has devised, every spice pre-measured, and I’m sitting there like, “How does her brain work?”

It’s honestly a little overwhelming, but in a good way. Every time I’m around her (which isn’t much, she lives quite a ways away) I learn something new. I’m a slow learner, a lot more bounces off my forehead than what actually gets absorbed, but it’s sinking in…

On this last trip, Maureen introduced me to the idea of keeping sheet sets inside pillowcases so that they’re all contained. Oh. My. Word. No more searching for lost pillowcases, or lone ranger top sheets – they’re right there in the pillow case. This has been invaluable advice, since we don’t have a linen cabinet in this apartment and the sheets just kind of live ‘wherever’. Now they’re in a neat stack of sheet ‘kits’, ready to be hauled off the pile and put on the bed. Viola.

She also got me hooked on the whole Binder Theory.

The theory is this: if you have everything written down and contained in one location – you won’t loose you mind trying to remember it all. So very clever. She even outfitted me with a binder (“I always pick them up at garage sales and keep them – you never know when you need an empty binder! We use them for everything…” she says.) some paper and a few page protectors – a Binder Starter Kit.

a glimpse into the secret passages contained therein

Lest I go home without anything in my new Binder, she passed along her recipe for sourdough bread (as well as the starter- which, for the record, is kept in the fridge, not the Binder… just saying.), instructions for making fertility tracking beads (people are getting antsy for us to start having kids, I’m thinking…) and a few recipes for popular condiments that can be made at home for a fraction of the cost of buying them at the store. Salad dressings, ketchup, mayonnaise – I have the recipes in my Binder and I feel like such a legit housewoman!

Oh yes. I have since added more paper and more page protectors and have set up various ‘sections’ for home, some day farm, kitchen, health, finances, and knitting. Yup, knitting gets a whole section in the Binder. Not sure why – it just does. The End.

So I’m thinking meal plans. Does anyone out there do this? Right now we go from day to day or week to week with groceries and I usually have *some* idea about what to cook next, but I would love to get to the point where it’s a monthly thing. Monthly meal plans and then just shop according. My hubs *loves* to go grocery shopping, so this will probably continue to be a weekly occurrence, which is cool, but I’d still like to plan ahead more. Is that even possible? Is that silly to do since there are just two of us?  I just think of all the brain space I could use on a daily basis if I weren’t consumed with figuring out what to have for dinner…

My thinking is this – someday, fertility tracking beads or no, if the good Lord so wills, we will have children. I’ve been thinking about that an awful lot lately, not exactly in a wishy-washy way, or a ‘tear up when I see a baby in the store’ way, but it’s almost like I’ve gone into Planning Mode. Weird, huh? Me – who plans for nothing. Who has No Plan. Suddenly – everything about my world is, “How is this going to work when we have kids?”

I don’t want to be a crazy mom who can’t stay on top of the game, you know? I certainly don’t want to schedule the fun out of life, but I don’t want to be so stressed out due to lack of knowledge and plannig that I can’t enjoy life.  I think the key is not in being perfect, not in having a spotless house, not in never having an unplanned moment, but simply Knowing What You Are About.

I have to admit, since living so far from Maureen, my ol’ buddy Pinterest has become my go-to place for ideas about getting my brain in order. Talk about organization overload! Printable meal plans, chore checklists, ideas and inspiration, recipes – it’s like an Internet Binder that fills itself -without page protectors. I’m lovin’ it.

So what do you do to keep yourself in check? Any tips? Any wives and/or mothers out there with advice to pass along to this here Pleb?

I’m all ears…

P.S. …thought I’d add some links of sites I’ve been on recently that fueled and inspired my nesting drive… more to come

Bowl Full of Lemons

The Nest Effect

dream a little dream of me

“Last night I had the craziest dream that you and I went on Gwen and Andy’s honeymoon with them to Alaska. Gwen cut her hand really bad and had to be taken ashore to the hospital which was this really old, sketchy Chinese thrift shop. They took Gwen to the back of the store where this little Eskimo lady was going to sew her hand up and you and I were walking around looking at all the stuff and I couldn’t decide between these two patchwork bags that I really wanted.”

“Yeah, THAT’S not hard to believe.”

“Listen now, so I was trying to pick, and you came up behind me and gave me a big hug and said that I could get both. You were so sweet. And you looked like Paul Newman.”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. I looked like Paul Newman? Like, young, good-looking Paul Newman or old Salad Dressing Newman?”

“Ummmm, like the salad dressing Newman.”

“Oh. Ok. And I said you could get both?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t. I still couldn’t decide….”

“Only you. This is like some kind of a wife dream where the husband looks like a movie star and tells her she can buy both the bags she wants…. yeah.”

“Yeah. I know. So did you dream last night?”

“I did actually, I dreamed that you and I were working on the truck together…”

“Husband dream. Did I look like Marilyn Monroe?”

Because I know *I* would rather look like the Salad Dressing Version of a movie star…

I’m not sure

20120625-081946.jpg

This is my husband.
He’s *hiding* under the covers, waiting for me to brush my teeth and do all the girly before-bed things I feel I must.

When I walk back into the bedroom, he’s going to pop out and *scare* me.

I don’t know what I love more- the fact that he thinks he is going to scare me, or the abject horror he will experience when I pretend to have a heart attack after he does.

It’s all fair in love…