If you decide to make the tuna casserole...like I did tonight...throw the broiler on when the casserole is done to brown the cheese and make the breadcrumbs crunchy.  You'll be glad you did.

For Chris: Our Favorite Tuna Casserole

We make a lot of meals from two cookbooks, Crazy Plates and Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry.  One of our favorite recipes from Crazy Plates is called "Tickle Me Elbows", a WONDERFUL tuna casserole.  I have modified the recipe to suit our tastes.  It is great leftover and is perfect to take to work the next day.

I wish I could include pictures, but they're on our old computer, which Chris has with him.  Anyway, make this tonight...you'll thank me!

Favorite Tuna Casserole (modified from Crazy Plates, a gift from Erin in 2001)

2 cups (dry) elbow or shell wheat pasta (we prefer Barilla whole grain)
1 can water-packed tuna, drained
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 diced bell pepper (any color)
1/4 cup diced pimento
1 can condensed cream of celery soup OR 1 can organic cream of celery soup
1/2 cup milk (if using condensed soup, omit if using can of organic soup, as it isn't condensed)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for top of casserole
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/4 tsp black pepper
Handful of whole wheat breadcrumbs (plain or seasoned)

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water and drain again.  In large bowl, combine cooked macaroni, drained tuna, celery, bell pepper, and pimento.  Toss to mix.

Organic Cream of Celery Soup

Combine soup and milk (if using condensed soup!) in a small saucepan.  Heat soup over medium heat until smooth and warm.  Add shredded cheese and continue to cook until cheese is melted.  If you're feeling crazy, toss in a little extra cheese!  Remove from heat, stir in mayonnaise and black pepper.

Pour sauce over noodle mixture.  Mix well.  Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle with shredded cheddar and breadcrumbs.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

My current favorite, www.iansnaturalfoods.com.

What is your favorite tuna recipe?

I'm Back

Parked in the Kitchen has been a little busy.  We hit the road in April...and headed west...

To work for a while at a little park in Utah...but the snow was high...so we waited...

It was worth the wait...

We took some road trips during our time in Utah...and enjoyed the dry mountain air...

We thought it was hot in St. George, UT...

Then, I left my other half behind and came back to Oklahoma on Saturday...and realized I am directly over hell...

And, that I miss this guy so much...

Ranger Amy

Well, I usually try to stay away from work-related topics on this blog, but I can't keep this one quiet...RANGER AMY IS COMING BACK TO OKLAHOMA!!!  She's my 2009 Teacher-Ranger-Teacher...and she's bringing her students to Oklahoma's parks for spring break.  How cool is that??  I hope you'll follow them on their journey...

Amy's Blog

STAMPS Blog  (Students Teaching About Monumental Park Sites)

Ranger Jen and Ranger Amy at Chickasaw in August 2009

Our dear friend, Jen, who is a Ranger in Washington, DC, has been working with Amy to prepare her students for the trip.  These two brilliant ladies created the STAMPS program just a few years ago to help connect students to the parks.  They are amazing! 

I can't wait to share my home park with Amy's students...and have her back as my co-worker!

Weight Watchin'

I think I mentioned early on in this blog deal that Chris and I were doing Weight Watchers...which might be hard to believe considering how much we like to eat.  Well, we originally started the program last summer, in preparation for our wedding.  We both lost weight before the big day.  I lost about 16 pounds, to be exact. Chris was somewhere around 10 lbs., I believe. 

The beauty of WW is that you can eat whatever you want, as it teaches you portion control and how to make better choices.  When we left for our wedding and honeymoon, we had been trained.  Since that time, we haven't been counting points, but we have kept our good habits.  The weight loss has been slower...but I just had to share that, as of this morning, I've lost a total of 24 pounds!  And no, I'm not going hungry.  We both feel better and are proud of our healthy choices...that allow us to indulge when we want.  We'll never go back to our old ways.  Thank you, WW!!!!!  Has anyone else tried WW with success? 

And what's for dinner tonight, you ask?  I'm actually taking advantage of some prepared foods.  We're having penne pasta and tomato/mozzarella salad.

Saturday Night Penne Pasta

1 teas. olive oil
handful of mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 links of Archer Farms Chicken/Mushroom Sausage (or other lean sausage of your choice) sliced
2 tbs. parmesan cheese
1 jar Newman's Own Marinara

Heat saute pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Toss in mushroom slices and sausage slices.  Saute until mushrooms are soft.  Add garlic.  Saute until garlic is fragrant.  Add jar of marinara and stir in parmesan.  When sauce comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer until dinner time.  Serve over your favorite penne pasta with parmesan to garnish.  Have you tried Barilla Whole Grain or Barilla Plus?  We love 'em!

Tomato/Mozzarella Salad

1 large tomato, sliced
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 tbs. olive oil
1 teas. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of dried basil (or a few tbs. chopped fresh, if you have it)
kosher salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Layer tomato and mozzarella slices on a plate or shallow dish.  Sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic.  Enjoy!

Ranger Review: Arizona Edition, Part 3

We left Flagstaff and headed south...making our way towards Phoenix and my eventual departure back to Oklahoma.  But, why take the interstate when you can take the scenic route? We chose Arizona's 89A, deciding that we'd just take the day as it came, without any plans...it turned out to be wonderful!

Our first stop was the Oak Creek Canyon overlook in the Coconino National Forest.

We continued south through the National Forest on 89A towards Sedona, enjoying the beautiful views at every turn as we dropped in elevation.

Most people would've stopped in Sedona, but it seemed pretty touristy...and we were on a mission...I looked at the map and realized we could make it to Tuzigoot National Monument if we kept moving...so on we rolled.  We arrived at Tuzigoot with plenty of time to look around.

Ok, remember where I said, "plenty of time"?  As much as we both love earning our passport stamps, we just weren't feeling the NPS love at Tuzigoot.  We talked to the Ranger inside the very kitschy visitor center and quickly headed out to the ruins to earn our stamp and get the heck out of there!  Don't get me wrong, pueblo ruins are beautiful and a WPA-built VC with original exhibits isn't bad either, but it's just kinda funky at Tuzigoot.
We continued on as the sun started to set. The road took us up and down mountains, through hairpin turns, and up into Jerome, Arizona, an historic mining town tucked into the side of a mountain.  Incredible.  The town has in the process of revitalization with new shops, galleries, and restaurants.  There are interesting historic buildings around every corner.  It was too late in the day to stay long, but we hope to go back.

The drive was just gorgeous.  It was full of surprises behind each curve. 89A is a must-see.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is get off of the interstate...without a schedule or a plan.

We headed south and into Phoenix...we knew if we got there by dinner, we could find an In-N-Out Burger.  What a way to end a perfect day.

Gobble, Gobble

We bought ground turkey breast last night and I was eager to get to work with it in the kitchen for tonight's dinner.  Usually I buy ground turkey breast at Whole Foods and keep 1 lb. packages of it in the freezer, but we haven't been down there in a LONG TIME, so I bought the standard package at the regular grocery store.  After googling turkey burgers, I modified a recipe I found and came up with a delicious result. The burgers were juicy and flavorful.  Chris and I actually high-fived at the dinner table! I wish I had more pics to share, but I didn't think of taking them...I didn't know this would be so good. Enjoy!

Friday Night Turkey Burgers

1 pkg. (1.25 lb.) ground turkey breast (not just ground turkey...the breast is much leaner)
1 egg
1/4 c. whole wheat bread crumbs (I used Ian's Panko)
1/4 c. grated carrot
1/4 c. red bell pepper, finely chopped (any bell pepper would work)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 c. onion, finely chopped
1/8 teas. ground pepper
1/2 teas. kosher salt

Grate carrots and chop peppers, garlic, and onion without cutting off part of the nail on your index finger like I did.  Oh, and have you tried the band-aid waterproof fingertip band aids?  I had to go to the store after dinner...I think I'll be needing to protect my digit for a while.  It only took me two tries to figure out how to wrap it up. Good thing I'm so smart.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and hope you have somone else to touch the meat as you nurse your injury.  Luckly, Chris took over from here. Divide mixture into 4 patties.  Brush grill pan with olive oil and heat pan over medium heat. Place patties on pan and cook until done (fancy, I know...we didn't time the cooking).

Top with your favorite cheese and allow to melt.  Serve on thin buns (we like using the new "sandwich rounds" that you can find at any store)  This week, we had Nature's Own on hand.  We also like the Oroweat ones.  If you haven't tried them, they're in the bread aisle.  They are great for sandwiches, homemade garlic bread, and burgers. You'll save a ton of fat a calories and, if you buy the multigrain or wheat ones, you'll get a lot of fiber.  Love it! Spread buns with mayo or miracle whip or condiments of your choice.  Serve with a salad.  We paired our burgers with one of our favorite salads have two burgers left to enjoy another day...

Cranberry Salad for Two

2 big handfuls of mixed greens
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese
1 pear, chopped into cubes OR  handful of grapes, halved
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/8 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. Newman's Lighten Up Raspberry and Walnut Dressing (this stuff is AMAZING, RIP Paul!)

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl.  Divide into two servings in salad bowls or on plates with your main dish.

And, on an unrelated note, I thought I would leave you with a little something extra because I'm so generous.  Behold, the view from our living room/kitchen/dining room the other day.  Yes, life is glamorous when you live in a downtown loft in Oklahoma. What a sweet ride.

Do you have any ground turkey breast recipes to share? I also use it for our favorite chili, but I'd love to hear what you have done with it.