Too, Too, Too, Tuna

I don’t know about you, Gentle Reader, but after enjoying this recent festive holiday season, I am feeling both penniless and puffy.

So, what’s a girl to do?

I cut back, both in calories and costs.  But protein is really important health wise (the ancestors of humans came down out of the trees and started making shoes and reading Mad magazine once they began eating protein). 

One of my life-long favorite foods is also a cheap protein that’s really good for you.

It’s canned tuna.

But first, I am Italian, and as a descendant of the boot, I have very strict notions about food.  And one of those beliefs is that cheese and fish do not belong together; except in a filet o’ fish, which is technically neither.  So, don’t come at me about tuna melt.  It’s an abomination.

Nope.

But back to the fish.

You can eat tuna on just about anything that will hold it—from a fork, to a freshly baked fancy French croissant (Petey’s choice).

A few ideas:When I’m feeling especially off track, and in need of nutrition but very limited calories, I opt for a roll-up.  You can use zucchini, cucumber, carrot, sliced into thin strips, but I just love Boston bib lettuce.  I’m not actually fond of the lettuce with anything but tuna, somehow the astringent flavor of the lettuce works well with the rich, fecund tuna and its additions.When I’ve made a special trip to Whole Foods or La Farm Bakery Cafe for some of Chef Lionel’s Vatinet’s fresh, delicious, bracing sourdough miche, I have a sandwich on it.  There are few breads that even come close to Chef Lionel’s.  Frankly, it’s tough to find anything that comes close to the flavor and quality of the product they make and serve at La Farm.

And, when I was a child the stable we belonged to Lazy R, had a snack bar, and they served it on a buttered, toasted bun.  I still love it that way.And, when I’m feeling a little more laissez-faire health-wise, a special treat for the entire Matthews family is to eat tuna with a big old stack of scoop-shaped corn chips.  Fritos sells scoops, but the dollar store usually sells a generic brand that’s just as good as the name brand, and about two or three dollars cheaper.

Avocado can be a delicious partner for tuna.  Put it in the hole of a halved, seeded veg.  You can dice it up and mix it in the tuna, along with a splash of citrus juice to reduce oxidation, which causes browning.  Or, and stay with me now, mash up the avocado, and use in the place of mayo. Just try it.

Mix-ins.  I have a confession.  It doesn’t matter how puffy I’m feeling, I love mayonnaise on my tuna most of all.  But, I don’t drown it (unlike a Petey and a Kid that shall go nameless).  I leave the meat in chunks, and toss it with enough mayo to barely coat it.

Then I add interesting, tasty, and nutritious ingredients that ups the flavor and the healthy.Not always, but occasionally I add hard-cooked egg.  It’s great for stretching both egg and tuna.  It also changes the flavor completely, but in a really good way.  It’s like a disguise.

I always start with a big shake of toasted sesame seed.  It’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals in an almost unnoticeable way.  White onion, for me is non-negotiable, I love the crunch and that pop of onion funk. Image result for sesame sunflower seedsThen lately, I’ve started using sunflower seeds.  The texture it adds is addictive.  I’d miss it if I left it out. Petey’s not a fan, but The Kid’s a true convert.

What this new addition tells me is that to keep riffing on tuna.  That it’s never too late to teach an old tuna eater some new mix-ins. Thanks for your time.

Spare Change

Regardless whether it’s a pound of ground round, a set of steel-belted radials, or a delicious pair of thigh-high periwinkle suede boots, I have an iron-clad philosophy about shopping.

My precious…

It was honed over decades as a shopper, and as an employee in retail establishments: The merchant’s goal is to make as much profit as possible, while the consumer’s is to spend the least amount while procuring what you need (hamburger and tires), and what you want (delicious boots).

That means using any legal means to reduce the final tally at the cash register.

Sales, coupons, alternate sources; they’re all fair game.

This is not an acceptable money saving method.

Most grocery stores start their new sales on Wednesday.  But many honor the previous week’s sales on Wednesday.  So, you could score two weeks’ worth in one trip.  Also, years ago, it didn’t make sense to chase all over town to shop the sales at multiple stores.  But now, when there are five or six supermarkets within a mile of each other, it doesn’t make sense not to.  BJ’s warehouse offers a magazine containing their own coupons plus, they accept manufactures coupon.

So study the circulars.  Then make your list and shop accordingly.

Coupons are great–IF.If the item is something you will use.  Many times I buy store brand merchandise, so it would be more expensive to buy the name-brand, even with a coupon.  Lowes and Harris Teeter double coupons.  Kroger doesn’t, but they frequently mail coupons to customers, tailored to each individual’s buying history.  And even though there’s an expiration date on them, Kroger honors them no matter what the date says.

Don’t be too fancy to shop at Big Lots and dollar stores.  Just keep in mind how much items run at the supermarket, because occasionally they can be pricier.  But many canned goods are cheaper, as well as egg noodles, cake mix, bread, eggs and frozen items.  Also when you’re near a Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Ross’s, take a peek at the food they stock.  Expensive specialty products can often be insanely cheap.

And lastly, mark downs in the store.  Back near the dairy section, Lowes has a couple carts and shelves with items that are usually 50% off.  They are normally ‘scratch and dent’ items.

But it’s the meat department where you can really shine.Every time I’m in any grocery store, I walk through the meat department and look for sales.  This is meat that is good, but only has a couple more days ’til the sell by date.  As long as you either freeze it or cook it the day you bring it home, you’ll have no trouble. Yesterday I got a pound of flat iron steak for $3.00, down from $8.15.  But the best deal ever was a four-pack of turkey burgers for $2.27.

At home, I seasoned them, then dusted with a combination of white-wheat and rye flours, to seal in juices and jack up flavor.  I cooked them in a hot cast iron with a generous drizzle of olive oil, searing both sides.  When the internal temp was between 160 and 165, I took them off the heat.The first two became patty melts on multi-grain bread.  Tonight I made a mushroom-heavy Marsala sauce and served the other two on a bed of egg noodles that I’d bought at the dollar store.

I love it when I can make a nice dinner for just a few dollars.  Then I can use my savings for something really important, like a delicious pair of thigh-high periwinkle suede boots.

Of course, velvet is nice too…

Thank for your time.