Have I mentioned how much I admire Alice Currah? Not only is she a wife and mother of three, but she also maintains two blogs (Savory Sweet Life and Everyday Alice) and is now a contributor to PBS’s Kitchen Explorers. How she finds the time to do all these things, I will never know. As impressive as those time management feats are, they aren’t why I admire Alice.
I admire Alice for speaking difficult truths, for honoring her own convictions, for owning her opinions, for encouraging others to follow their passions, for being both a vocal critic and an ardent cheerleader, for reminding us to be authentic, and for being one of the warmest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I truly feel lucky to have met her in person and seen the passion she has for what she does and for this community of food bloggers.
When I read her Tuna Casserole post on PBS Kitchen Explorers, I ached to have it as part of the Food Memories project. She eloquently conveyed how her food memories played a huge role in her life. I connected with this story in a lot of ways and I really loved how she honored her early experiences with food. I am honored that Alice is allowing me to share it with you here.
Alice’s Tuna Casserole
Cooking and baking has always been a part of who I am. My mother and father had to work twelve hour days to put food on the table. Having six kids was challenging and they did their best to make sure we were clothed, fed, and had a roof over our heads. The food wasn’t glamorous but it sustained and nourished our bodies. My mother would often prepare a big one pot dish before leaving for work, which would be waiting for us on the stove top for dinner. Most of the time these dishes were very basic and accompanied by warmed rice made in a rice cooker.
Although our family certainly qualified for public assistance, the prideful part of my father seemed to always override the need for more food in our cupboards. Nevertheless we managed, partly because of my resourceful grandmother who would occasionally bring us bags of groceries she received from the local food bank; bags of canned and boxed goods in white labels with black letters. These canned and boxed government issued foods would become my pantry, which started my love affair with cooking and baking.
I had to be resourceful, creative, and flexible – a philosophy which would apply to every aspect of my life including working in the kitchen. My mother was not home to teach me to cook, but watching cooking shows on PBS planted seeds in my heart. Although we never had any of the ingredients on hand to make anything I watched on television, I would experiment with what we did have on hand. I developed my first recipe at eight years old. I opened up a few cans of tuna, cooked some packaged pasta, stirred in some frozen peas, and mixed everything in a bath of shredded cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. To top this casserole off, I crumbled Shredded Wheat cereal over a 9×13 baking dish and dinner was served. My siblings and I devoured my no recipe-recipe and soon I was known as the cook of the family.
I learned to bake from my neighbor, Alice (I was actually named after her). She was an elderly lady who never married and we considered her our American grandmother. Her yard was covered in fruit trees and a vegetable garden we looked forward to eating from every time we visited. Every year she would take us kids to the local strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry farms to pick fresh seasonal fruit. She then would bake the best pies and pastries in the world for us to enjoy. Her love of baking and teaching was passed on to me as if I were her granddaughter, for which I will always be indebted.
Today my three beautiful children – Abbi (9), Mimi (7), and Eli (2) – and I cook and bake together all the time. From the moment each of them was able to hold a spoon I’ve tried to teach them the basics of cooking and baking, and encouraged them to discover their own way. They’re developing their own creative flare with what they make. My husband Rob and I love watching them explore their potential in the kitchen, burnt cookies and all.
I’m an avid home cook and baker. The advice, recipes, and stories I’ll be sharing with you are from everyday moments and experiences – not from culinary training or professional expertise. I believe in being creative, resourceful, and flexible. This is the approach I will share with you here and on my personal food blog: Savory Sweet Life.
I’m thrilled to be a weekly food contributor as part of the PBS Parents team along with my partner, Aviva Goldfarb. I’m most looking forward to hearing your stories, recipes, tips, and ideas of food you love and how you incorporate it into your daily routine. My hope is that we can become friends- learning and growing from each other. I don’t have all the answers but I’m more than happy to share with you what I do know. I also plan on reaching out to the PBS Parents Kitchen Explorers community for your ideas and perhaps even showcase them on one of my weekly posts. I invite you to become an active participant in our newly launched community. Together we will laugh, commiserate, and share family-friendly food our families will love and enjoy!
Reminiscent of my childhood, here’s is an updated version of my tuna noodle casserole recipe. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Reprinted with permission of Alice Currah
BAH Note: I am a sucker for tuna noodle casserole. It is one of my most comforting guilty pleasures. There, I feel much better getting that out in the open.
- 6 oz dried curly egg noodles
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 oz package sliced mushrooms
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 8 oz package shredded medium Cheddar cheese, divided
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 2 (5-oz) cans solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup potato chips, gently crushed into smaller pieces
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Drain noodles and set aside.
Sauté onion in butter in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium heat for five minutes. Add mushrooms, celery, and salt and cook for five minutes longer. Stir in water and bouillon cubes.
In a small bowl, whisk milk and cornstarch until completely dissolved. Add the milk mixture and 3/4 cup of cheese to the skillet and stir everything until well incorporated and sauce is nice and thick.
Add noodles, peas and tuna and gently fold them in. Season with pepper and additional salt to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese and crushed potato chips evenly on top.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.