Tuna Salad Recipe

Here in Oklahoma, it is hot.  Yesterday it was 107.  A few nights ago, I walked onto the porch without shoes on at 9 p.m. and burned my feet.  We are craving cold meals.

I make really good tuna salad.  I’m not being immodest.  It’s just a fact.

Over the years, I’ve changed and tweaked my recipe, and it might finally have reached perfection.  No matter what kind of tuna salad you like – whether you like sweet pickles or dill pickles, apples or grapes, or if you cut your ingredients in a big chop or a fine dice, I have a few tips to make your tuna salad perfect!

  • Cut everything the same size.
  • Think about what tastes good with fish – not what flavors go with canned tuna.  Think about going to your favorite seafood restaurant and getting a nice piece of fish.  Think about those flavors.  For me, I think lemon, dill, a little kick of spice, and whole grain mustard.
  • Think about different tastes and textures – sweet, salty, nutty and tart.
  • Mix the sauce and the salad separately so that you make sure your sauce is perfect and that your salad mix has the right ratio of ingredients.

When you think about the different tastes needed, you can improvise.  Once I was out of pickles, but I had capers, so I used those.  Once I was out of pecans, so I used walnuts.  Once I was out of lemon, so I used some distilled vinegar.  Once I was out of tuna, but I had canned salmon.  This recipe is all about merging what you like and what you have on hand.

Boil eggs.  Put a splash of vinegar in the water.  This will help the shells come off later.  I learned that lesson the hard way a few Easters ago.  Those were some ugly deviled eggs.

Chop apples, onions, dill pickles and pecans.  Make sure everything is about the same size.

In a separate bowl, make your mayo sauce.  Think about what you like with fish.  I love dill, lemon and mustard and a bit of a kick.  Throw in kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.  Taste it to make sure it’s perfect.  Adjust as needed.

Chop up your eggs and add them and the tuna to the mix.  Look at the mix and make sure you’re happy with the ratio of ingredients.  Now is a good time to add more apples or pecans or pickles.  Or celery.  I hate celery.  There is never a good time to add celery for me.  But you might like it, and that’s okay.

Next, it’s time to combine the sauce and the mix!  Add however much you want.  My mom and I always fight about this.  She likes a lot more sauce than I do.  It’s really up to personal preference.

If you have extra sauce, spread it on your bread because it’s really yummy!

Assemble and enjoy!  I used Udi’s Ancient Grains Omega Flax & Fiber Gluten Free Bread, which is my favorite gluten-free bread.

Tuna Salad Recipe
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Mix
  1. 1 large can and 1 small can of solid tuna, drained
  2. 1 c. chopped apple
  3. 1/2 c. chopped onion
  4. 1/2 c. chopped dill pickles
  5. 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  6. 2 boiled eggs, chopped
Sauce
  1. 1 c. olive oil mayonnaise
  2. 1/2 tsp. whole grain mustard
  3. 1/2 - 1 tsp. dill
  4. a few splashes of Tabasco sauce
  5. juice of half a small lemon
  6. kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Chop and mix the salad mixture. Blend the sauce mixture. Combine together to your personal preference of sauciness. Enjoy on a sandwich or a salad. Don't forget to immediately refrigerate the leftovers.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

French Soda (or Italian Cream Soda) Recipe

When the Professor and I got married, the question of alcohol at the wedding wasn’t really an option.  Between our two families, we have a spectrum of opinions on alcohol ranging from alcohol is wrong to notorious for getting a little too tipsy at social gatherings.  Plus, we couldn’t afford it.

I do event planning with my job, and I’ve always noticed the benefit of having something interesting to drink when you’re in a room of strangers.  It’s a great ice breaker – an instant conversation starter.

I decided that Italian Cream Sodas (also called French Sodas or Creamosas) were the way to go for our wedding.

picture

Insert gratuitous wedding photo.  This one’s my favorite.

The sodas were so popular that our caterer ran out of supplies and had to run grab more during the reception.  It’s been three years and people still talk about them.

French sodas have a special place in my heart now.  Not only do they feel oh so decadent, but they taste fresh and you can customize your sweetness level, which is great for me because I don’t like very sweet drinks.

On our first wedding anniversary, I bought the ingredients for French sodas and incorporated them into our special meal.  Ever since then, I’ve tried to keep a bit of soda water and sugar-free vanilla syrup on hand.  It’s a great way to use up a bit of cream or half and half.  And here in Oklahoma where we’ve been reaching 109 degree days, they are luxuriously refreshing.  They help me keep my mind off of my electricity bill.

Soda Ingredients

Here’s what you need: ice, syrup, cream (or half and half), and soda water.

syrup

Measure out some syrup.  You can usually find it in the coffee aisle or at gourmet stores.  Start with about an 1/8 of a cup – so you can see how much syrup you like.

Add it to your ice-filled cup.

You can also mix flavors.  Sometimes I make a raspberry vanilla soda, and it is quite nice.

Next is where I deviate a little.  Most people add the soda water and then add the cream at the very end so that the cream slowly incorporates into the soda and looks fancy.

I add the splash of cream before adding the soda water.  I like how the soda water mixes with the cream and makes big creamy, foamy bubbles.  It’s sort of like a grown-up root beer float.  (I forgot to take a picture.  Oops.).

soda

Unless you’re planning on making a lot of sodas at once, buy cans.  Soda water goes flat quickly and a flat French soda is a sad French soda.

cream soda

Look at those great bubbles!  It’s sort of like adding whipped cream to the top, except not really, but it’s close and it feels decadent without extra calories from whipped cream.

After everything is incorporated, give it a taste.  You may find that you like more cream or more syrup…or heck more cream and more syrup.  Adjust and make a mental note so you can make perfect French sodas for years to come.

There’s nothing like a fancy, refreshing drink while sitting in your pj’s and watching reruns of Monk.

I lead a glamorous life and now you can too.

French Sodas
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Ingredients
  1. 1 glass that holds 2 1/2 cups of liquid
  2. Ice
  3. 1 can of soda (you won't use the whole can)
  4. 1/8 c. flavored syrup
  5. splash of cream (about 2 tbsp)
  6. whipped cream (optional)
  7. fancy straw (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix together in a concoction of pure happiness. Drink. Repeat.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

Sushi Rice Recipe

Some of my friends think it’s super fancy that I make sushi rice all the time.  Like most of the things I do that people think are super fancy, sushi rice is not.  I make it all the time in lots of things!  There’s sushi, for one.  Also, sushi rice bowls,  Thai beef, and lots of other yummy things.

Sushi rice is particular.  It’s not difficult.  But there is a way to make it correctly and a way to make yourself a big pot of goop.  So I hope this recipe demystifies sushi rice, and allows you to make all your rice hopes and dreams come true.

Sushi rice is sometimes called glutenous rice.  Don’t worry fellow celiacs – there’s no gluten.  It’s called that because it is really sticky.  On a side note, glutenous rice/sushi rice/sweet white rice (as it is also known) flour all make excellent roux (rouxes, rouxs…sorry I don’t know the plural of roux) in gluten-free sauces!

Rice

Here’s what sushi rice looks like before it’s cooked.  It’s very short and fat, and inside it lies the enemy – lots and lots of starch that must be eliminated.  If you don’t rinse away the starch, you will not make rice.  You will make solidified goop. Most of the prep of sushi rice centers around getting out the starch.

Sushi rice expands a lot less than other rices.  Don’t count on it doubling like jasmine rice.  If you want three cups of rice, use two cups or so of raw rice.

soak the rice

Step 1: Soak the rice for about an hour.
This really helps, but if you’re in a pinch you can skip it.  However, it does make a difference.  If you do skip it, you’re going to have to do the next steps a few more times.

rince the riceStep 2: Drain and Rinse the rice in a colander.
You’ll be surprised at how white the water is.  That’s the starch.

Soak and scrub

Step 3: Put the rice back in the bowl, fill up with water and scrub the rice around.
Scrubbing the rice around fills sort of like you’re exfoliating your hands.  I try not to think about this though, because that means my dead skin cells are in the rice.  Gross.

And now repeat…drain, rinse, put back in the bowl, fill with water..

Do this until the water is clear.

clear rice

Finally after four rounds of wash/rinse/repeat, the water was clear!

add water

Step 4: Put the rice in a regular-sized sauce pot.  Add water.
The general rule of thumb is to put your finger at the top of the rice and add water until the water reaches your first knuckle.  Now, if you’re super tall or super short and have proportionally large or small hands, adjust accordingly.  I’ve used this making 2 cups and 6 cups of rice and it always works, assuming you’re using a standard-sized pot.

boil
Step 5: Cookin’ Time
Bring to a boil.  Just as soon as it comes to a boil, throw on your lid and turn the burner to low.  Let it simmer for 15 minutes.

You now have 15 free minutes of productivity.  Or not.

Steam

Step 6: Steamin’ Time
After it’s cooked and you’ve paused Netflix finished being productive, remove the pot from the heat, but don’t remove the lid.  Let the rice steam for 10 minutes.

Vinegar

One of the reasons sushi rice is so good is that it’s seasoned with the greatest combination of rice vinegar, sugar and salt.  You can buy seasoned rice vinegar that contains the salt and sugar.  I buy unseasoned because I use the rice vinegar in other recipes too.

I enjoy the texture of sushi rice, so I use it in Thai dishes as well as traditional Japanese dishes.  During those times, I do not add the vinegar mixture.

Mix 1/3 cup vinegar, 3 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp of kosher salt.  Microwave it until the salt and sugar are incorporated, about 45 seconds.

Mix the vinegar solution with the rice.

Enjoy!

Sushi Rice Recipe
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups sushi rice
  2. water (3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups)
  3. 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  4. 3 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Soak the rice for an hour. Drain, rinse, wash the rice. Put it back in a bowl and submerge it in water. Scrub between your fingers, drain, rinse, wash and submerge again. Do this until the water is clear.
  2. In a medium sauce pot, add rice and fill with water up to your first knuckle. Bring to a medium boil. Once boiling, immediately cover and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes and then remove from heat, keeping the lid on, for the rice to steam for another 10.
  3. Mix vinegar, sugar and salt together and microwave until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Mix in to rice and stir with a large spoon.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

Watermelon Feta Salad (Gluten-Free)

watermelon feta salad | Accidental Okie

I’ll admit it.  I’m not a good fruit eater year around.  The Professor eats one or two apples every day.  I hate apples.  I like oranges when they’re in season.  I like bananas…in dessert.  I love sweet grapes, but rarely buy them because they’re so expensive.

But when summer comes around, I gorge myself on fruit.  I eat peaches and apricots and black plums until I’m sick.  And watermelon.  I heart watermelon.  Especially bright red, scrumptious, flavorful watermelon.

Watermelon selection has always been iffy for me.  I’ve heard that there’s no real way to pick a watermelon.  (Life is like a watermelon…you never know what you’re gonna get).  The thumping method doesn’t do much and it’s not like you can smell it.  The two-inch thick rind prevents that.

Watermelon Selection Tips

Look for a melon that is:

  • Symmetrical
  • Bright green
  • Has a well-defined ground spot (the yellowish spot where it sat on the ground).  There shouldn’t be any other yellow on the melon besides the ground spot
  • Doesn’t have any bruises

Since following those guidelines, I’ve had much better luck with my watermelon selection. This is a good thing because a bad watermelon that costs $5 to $7 makes me grumpy.

My new favorite vehicle for ingesting watermelon this year is a salad.  Seriously, how did it take an appetizer at BJ’s Brewhouse to get me to think of this?  I should have thought of it years ago.

You should make this.  It might change your life.

First, use my watermelon tips to select a perfect piece of fruit.  Look at this!  I didn’t photoshop it.  It was this bright and juicy.  God bless summer.

Speaking of photoshop, I’d rather have my own sub-par photos than sterile stock photos stolen from the internet, so bear with me and my sucky photos.

Cut Watermelon

Quarter it and then run your knife between the rind and the fruit, being careful not to get any of the rind.  It tastes gross.  Also avoid the light pink part between the bright fruit and the rind.  It’s watermelon purgatory.

Chopped

This makes it easy to slice the fruit into cubes, which is fancier than my usual method of grabbing half a fruit, a big spoon and plunking the melon onto the middle of the table for people to help themselves.  Sometimes I’m fancy.

Lettuce

Slice some lettuce up.  I use hearts of romaine, but use whatever you want.  Spinach or baby greens would be nice.  I can eat neither.  My stomach is too damaged from 12 years of undiagnosed gluten intolerance and I throw up any lettuce except hearts of romaine.  They don’t call it roughage for nothing! (Sorry. TMI moment).

Onions

Thinly slice a bit of red onion or a shallot or a handful of the top green parts of green onions.  I’ve used all three, and they all do the job of providing a crunch and a bit of yummy, oniony spice.  I had leftover shallots from something else, so I used it here.  Whatever you use, just remember that a little goes a long way.  Don’t cut up too much.

mint

Chop some mint.  Once again, a little goes a long way.  This is mint from my garden.  It seems to be tougher than mint from the grocery store, so I chopped it up into little pieces.

dressing

Next make the honey vinaigrette salad dressing.

My inspiration for this salad is from BJ’s Brewhouse.  I always marveled at how light and fresh the salad is.  I got it to go once, and the dressing was on the side.  I always thought the dressing was light and mild, but when I tasted the dressing on its own, it was actually quite strong.  I tasted a lot more mustard and a lot less honey that I expected.  Those strong tastes – in extreme moderation – make this salad incredibly dynamic.

The dressing is just oil, honey, vinegar, mustard powder (or dijon), salt and pepper.  If you are like me and have a BFF who gave you this super fancy salad dressing maker because she knows you are semi completely obsessed with making your own salad dressings (thanks Sarah Faye!), mix it in that.  Otherwise, any old container with a lid or bowl and a whisk will do.

Give it a taste for saltiness and sweetness.  Adjust if needed.

cheese

Sprinkle on some feta.

This salad is all about the mixing of sweet, tart and spicy elements.  The fruit is sweet, the dressing is tart, the feta is really tart and the onions and mint are spicy in their own delectable ways.  I got cheese happy and the feta’s tartness overpowered the salad a bit. Use restraint, which I know is hard when it comes to cheese.

Tip, if you find feta is too sharp for you, buy cheap feta made from cow’s milk instead of goat’s milk.  That’s what I do.  It’s quite a bit tamer.  And cheaper!

Sprinkle on A VERY SMALL AMOUNT of dressing (once again, a little goes a long way) and voila!

Watermelon Feta Salad with Honey Vinaigrette Recipe
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Salad
  1. 1 Head of Romaine Lettuce, chopped
  2. 1/4 of a seedless watermelon, cubed
  3. 1/4 of a small red onion or one shallot or a few sliced green onions, sliced thin
  4. Sprinkle of Feta
  5. A few mint leaves, stemmed and chopped
Dressing
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil (you could use 1/8 olive oil and 1/8 vegetable or grapeseed oil to cut the tartness)
  2. 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  3. 1-2 tbsp honey - start with 1
  4. 1/2 tsp of dry mustard powder (I haven't tried it yet, but you could also just use a squirt of dijon)
  5. Salt and fresh-ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Add all the dressing ingredients except the oil. Give it a shake or a stir. Add the oil and stir once more.
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