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…

 

A return, A revelation, A response; Tuesday’s Ten

Alright, alright – I fell off the blog bandwagon there for a bit and now I’m back.

I think.

Let’s just take each day as it comes, shall we? With tea and happy thoughts and much lower expectations on my end.

You see, I’m absolutely, totally, utterly and incredibly Pregnant.

Yuppers.

That’s me. Oh, so preg-O.

I’m going to have a baby. There’s a tiny person inside me *right now*, growing away and making their mum long for naps and salty carbs.

Did you hear the shouts at about 7:45 AM last Monday (eastern standard time) when Alex and I found out that we are the delighted parents of a poppy seed-sized baby *someone*? Obviously, we’re not sure what the little boot is, though we keep inadvertently referring to him as, well, ‘him’, but just knowing that someone is really *there* is enough for now.

How do you describe it? I will attempt to do so with this Tuesday’s Ten Things…

1) Shocked; it worked! I know they *said* it would – but it did. Really. We did it. We made a baby. Um, ta-da! Is it weird to feel really accomplished?

2) Thankful; God worked! Sure we happened to be in all the right spots at all the right times, but do you have any idea what a miracle this is? How can there possibly be pregnant atheists?! This is so obviously the work of the Lord, it’s overwhelming because it’s happening IN ME. Someone exists now that didn’t before. There is a tiny soul inside me, placed there by God Himself. Incredible, absolutely incredible.

3) Full; I feel full. Full of love for my husband and our child. Full of purpose and intentions and hopes and dreams and worries and cravings and wonderings and supposings and plans and questions and deeper than usual thoughts. I feel full of life – which seems slightly contradictory seeing how my life now consists of barely more than eating, sleeping and trudging to the bathroom.

4) Happy; I’m a mama! I am so happy – purely, surely happy with all the gloss and shininess that goes along with it. Even when I get to feeling a little strained, just remembering *why* puts a smile on my face – I’ve got a baby.

5) Reverent. Life looks so different to me after seeing those two shadowy blue lines cross on that test – it really *means* something. Suddenly, I’m not thinking about ‘will this food make me fat’, but, ‘is this good for the baby?’. It’s amazing and surprisingly hard to describe, there is a deep part of me that feels very solemn and silent before the life that is  being woven together inside me. It’s so serious and fierce and strong.

6) Tired. Knock-down, drag out exhausted. So tired.

7) Hot. As in, literally on fire… I wasn’t aware that there would be hot flashes.

8) Preoccupied – Because I am not thinking about what you are saying, I am thinking about something else all together, probably baby-related. Sorry.

9) Honored. I am so honored to be the mother of Alex’s child, I can hardly say. He is the best of men and will be the very best of fathers and when I get to thinking about it I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, I say.

10) Out Of Control. In a way, at least, I feel as much a passenger as this little one. This being my first time around the block, I have very little idea of what to expect. I’ve read enough books to have some knowledge about it, but that’s not enough. Even if the knowledge is there, the *feeling* is still totally NEW. It’s so weird. It’s not just me anymore.

 

So there you have it, 10 Things from me about being pregnant. I’m quite sure this isn’t going to turn into some Mommy Blog, but I’m sure the kiddo will make an appearance now and again. We’ll have to come up with a cute nickname so we don’t have to call it “It” the whole time.

Any suggestions?

Bear Chili

They told me bear meat tastes like People – I didn’t want to ask how they knew.

My rugged hunter man went off into the woods and shot himself a decent-sized he-bear. When he came and announced the news to me I thought, “What are we going to do with all that meat?”

I’ve heard that it is a tough, sweet, oily sort of meat, not exactly everything we’ve come to love about good old Black Angus!  But, being the types to embrace adventure – culinary or otherwise – I decided to do my best to cook it into some edible form and Alex promised to eat it with an open mind.

From the various hunters and other adventurous cooks I interviewed, I realized that bear is not a distasteful meat, just a misunderstood and often poorly prepared one. It tends to be on the tough yet mild side and the fact that the animal itself lives all winter on hoarded stores of fat means that there can be quite a bit of grease, but that is easily pared off with a sharp knife, leaving you with less fat than most beef. It seems this meat wants to be spiced up and simmered long. I thought – “Chili!”

I used my crock pot and cooked the daylights out of it while I was at work and we ate it with homemade corn bread and a wild greens salad – a perfect, rustic, simple autumn meal.

Bear Chili

1 lbs lean bear meat, ground

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes plus 1 can water

4 oz cooked black beans

4 oz sweet corn (frozen or canned or fresh)

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 onion, diced

2 Tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how hot you want your chili to be)

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

 

The first thing is to fry up your onions, garlic and bear meat (*or* ground beef, since I suppose not everyone has a package of bear just sitting in their freezer, waiting to be used!)  Start with about a teaspoon of olive oil or butter in a hot frying pan, add your diced onions and minced garlic and cook them over medium heat until they are translucent and fragrant. Next, add the ground meat with a little water. I don’t like to add more fat to fry the meat with when a quarter cup of water will keep things from sticking just as well. Break the meat into small pieces while it is cooking. Once the meat is thoroughly browned, turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

If you are using a crock pot, now is the time to rescue it from its shelf or box. If you are going to cook your chili on the stove top, get out an eight or more quart stock pot with a thick bottom. Pour the tomatoes, water, corn, beans and spices into the cooking apparatus. If you are wondering about the cocoa powder, let me tell you – it does wonders for a chili! It does not make your meat taste chocolate-dipped, rather it adds a depth and darkness of flavor that is hard to beat. Simply trust me and add the cocoa.

Now, scoop in the meat mixture and turn on the heat! As I said before, I let the chili cook on high in my crockpot for several hours. If you are cooking on the stove, let it simmer on a lower heat for an hour or two, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom. If you need to, cover it up or add water by the cupful if it seems to be losing too much moisture. It does need to cook for some time so that all those lovely flavors get a chance to work together and make something fabulous.

It will be fabulous, let me assure you, whether you use beef, bear, moose, venison or even ground chicken. You don’t necessarily need to be a huntsman to enjoy the fruits of field and forest.  Enjoy!

 

 

a ten in the bucket

I hear a lot of people talking about their bucket-list.

Well, not being one to be willingly left out of a conversation, I want to talk about it too.

It was one of the things Alex and I first discussed when we started to court last year, “What’s your list?”

I guess you can learn a lot about a person by hearing what they want to do before they die, and I also suppose that he liked whatever it was I said because he answered, “Well, I’d like to do all those things too, with you.”

*awwwwww*

I also feel like I should mention that we have pretty tightly wrapped-up my bucket list, having done most of the things that were on it in the past year. True, I didn’t have anything really crazy like “skydive over the grand canyon”, but it’s still been a wild year of incredible happenings. Skinny dipping totally, absolutely and completely included.

I’ve had to write up a new list.

Here it is.

Babe – you getting this?

 

1) Go to the West. By plane, train or automobile, it doesn’t really matter. I just want to see West.

2) Have a baby. Yup. It’s on the list and now that I have a husband, we might actually be able to make that happen. Wowsers.

3) go to hear a symphony orchestra

4) learn to make pastry

5) whale watching

6) learn archery

7) learn to fly fish

8) write a book

9) try snowboarding

10) create a home-based business that actually works

Ok, so a little odd, slightly lame, I get it – but these are the things I want to do. I actually had a hard time coming up with this list because really, before I got married my secret bucket list was simply to find someone to share every day with, and now that I have that, my list remains just as simple; Live every day, sharing it with my best friend, perfect lover and husband. What better adventure could one ask for?

How about you? What’s on your List?

Confessions of a former Wool SNOB

“Former” as in, last night.

I *am* a wool snob. I have violently hated acrylic yarn since I was fourteen years old and  was given a garbage bag full of it by a sweet neighbor who heard that I liked to knit. It was ugly and had the feel of strung-out plastic and I knit a horrible, beginner cardigan with it that sat in my closet for several years before finally being thrown away during a move. Although I was rather thankful for the yarn and the thoughtfulness of my friend at the time, I was deeply scarred by the finished “plastic bag sweater” (could you tell?) and have been a hard-core, no-going-back, dyed-in-the-wool, wool snob ever since.

I don’t like acrylic fabric in clothing. I sat on the sidelines of the world and watched in disgust as my fellow Crafters fell head-long into the fleece frenzy of several winters ago. I haunted the edges of the fabric store looking for wool- any wool – and found none. “It’s just not that popular anymore”, the attendant said, and I felt as though the libraries had suddenly decided to stop putting Charles Dickens on the shelf in favor of the Twilight series…

So, there you have it. I knit with wool. I wore a wool coat for many years and had many a wool sweater. No fleece. No acrylic. And of course our pocket books would never allow for alpaca or cashmere, so that left us with good old sheep fur.

And then, when I was about 17 years old, I realized that I was terribly allergic to wool. How did this come about, you ask? Everywhere my favorite wool jacket touched skin turned bright red and the skin grew hard and flaky and extremely painful. I had to give up wearing it.

My “disadvantage”, which honestly seemed life-threatening at first to one such as I, has saved me from becoming an opinionated, crabby, snobby old woman someday. I don’t think we are nearly thankful enough for the things in life that keep up supple, at least I’m not.  I can thank God for the best things, and I have learned to see His hand in the worst, but what about all the little things in between that seem like random annoyances or plain old ‘bad luck’? What about the things that keep a spring in our spine and save us from atrophying too soon? Gotta be thankful for those things too, yup, I do.

I started wearing fleece, which was soothing for my angry, vengeful skin, and if there is wool in anything I put on it is usually blended quite generously with acrylic or alpaca, and yes, even cashmere or silk or cotton. I had to drop the illustrious title of ‘Wool Snob’.

Things shifted, but I never stopped knitting with wool yarn and that seemed to be the saving grace – at least I didn’t have to stop knitting with wool, my hands never seemed to mind it – there was one spot I didn’t have to give up, and I treasured it. I have a modest, but lovely collection of wool yarn that I have toted across this wide land, adding to it with gifts from friends and loved ones and a scattering of clearance sales at JoAnn’s.

I love my wool yarn. I really do – it’s probably the second thing I would grab if I had to run for my life. What’s a life without knitting, right?  (And if you’re interested, having no children or pets, the first thing I would grab is probably our personal records and an emergency survival kit – how unromantic we become when we reach real life!)  Not that I could easily grab the lot and run for my life – I would probably end up succumbing to whatever godawful horror was at hand.

Then I noticed the skin on my hands hardening slightly. “Oh look,” I thought, “I have calluses from knitting!” The skin continued to harden, deep down, and then it started to ‘chip’ off when I bent them and the pain was very intense. The fingerprints and feeling dissolved into hard flakes of shiny skin,and the cuticles have disappeared from around my nails as the skin swelled and cracked around it. Yup.

I know I have sensitive skin – ok, I have extremely sensitive skin, like, can’t use handsoap sensitive – but wool yarn has never bothered my hands so I didn’t even think of it. It’s just been getting worse and worse and I’ve been clueless and knitting up a storm. So I started praying about it and last night the answer came and knocked the wind out of me.

I’m allergic to wool.

I know, I thought we already covered this ground, but I had to walk it again in order to see. I’m allergic to wool. Even my hands. The End.

Yes, I was sad. I still am a little bit, but you know what – I’m feeling kind of free today. I can’t keep any of my lovely hoarded wool yarn and my heart wouldn’t stand for selling something I have treasured that much, so it’s being given away to friends and loved ones. It’s still going to be knit into wonderful, creative things, things I couldn’t have thought up, I’m sure. And my hands are going to heal.

I’m going to buy yarn that won’t hurt me – and that’s OK. Seems so simple to everyone else, I suppose, but I’m an odd duck – never denied it – pretty dense up top and rather set in my thoughts.  And – I’m also pretty thankful. I’m thankful for the Lord giving me  the lovely yarn in the first place and I’m thankful that He is giving me the opportunity to give it away to others. I’m thankful that He works through my dense dimness. I’m thankful that He is keeping my spine lubricated and pliable. I’m thankful for His answer to my silly prayers and that my hands have a chance to heal. I’m thankful that He gave me a sweet husband who says, “Have I denied you any good thing I have the power to provide? You will get more yarn… good yarn.” I’m thankful that his estimation of ‘good yarn’ is that it be the kind that won’t hurt me. I’m thankful that he doesn’t measure my value by how dyed-in-the-wool I am, as I often do. He doesn’t care how old fashioned I am, how hard-core, as long as I am “healthy and happy and loving him”.

So – it really isn’t that tragic after all, is it?

 

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’.