Chef P’s Tuna Casserole

Sometimes you just get the weirdest cravings…I probably haven’t had tuna casserole in 30 years, but today, out of the blue, I just had to have some. I looked up Mom’s old recipe (ie: The Betty Crocker Cookbook) made a few upgrades, and whipping up a VERY tasty one-pan dinner.

Very nice on a cold, rainy night!

Here you go,  Joella!

The Best Tuna Casserole

Chef P’s Tuna Casserole

1 (12 ounce) package egg noodles
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I like Cabot’s), divided
1 cup shredded Grueyre cheese
2 cups frozen sweet green peas
1 lb home-canned tuna (Or, if you must, 3 (6oz) cans, drained)
12 oz. homemade cream of mushroom soup, reduced (it’s super easy, here’s the first step) or 2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, or, for hardcore comfort-foodiness, crushed Ritz Crackers.
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

In a small bowl, toss breadcrumbs, half of each cheese, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika. (You can take this up a notch, btw, if you’re making your own mushroom soup, roast some peeled fresh garlic along with the ‘shrooms. Add these into the next step.)

Thoroughly mix cooked noodles, onion, remaining cheese, peas, tuna, and soup. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish, and top with breadcrumb/cheese mixture.

The Best Tuna Casserole
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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

A casserole is basically just a very thick stew, and like a stew, it gets better with a little time. I like to make mine the day before, or let it rest at least an hour before serving. For the day before preparation, let the cooked casserole cool to room temp before you wrap it that. This keeps the breadcrumbs from getting mushy from condensation.

Serve with a fresh green salad, and enjoy!

~ Chef Perry


Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Gyros vs. Schawarma

My old pal Megan, freshly returned from a recent European jaunt, asks:

“Two things, on searching for shawarma here in Portland, I found a restaurant that sold shawarma but in parentheses labeled it gyros. Are they the same thing? And do you know where I can get some good shawarma?”

(BTW – your timing is perfect, Megan, as we’ve just posted not one, but TWO gyros recipes:

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas, and Easy Skillet Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas


Both were derived in the 18th or 19th century from the Turkish Doner Kebab. Doner (rotating) and Kebab (grilled meat.)

When it was introduced to Greece, they named it “gyros,” Greek for “turn.” When it arrived in the Middle East, it was translated into the Arabic word for turning, “shawarma.”

In Greece the meat is typically pork, lamb, or beef, while the Middle Eastern version, not surprisingly, is never pork, but can be lamb, beef or chicken. In America, the meat is often a combination of beef & lamb.

The three major differences:

1. The Flavors

Gyros will have a more “Mediterranean” selection of herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary), while shawarma, not surprisingly, leans towards the “middle eastern” spice wheel (cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, turmeric.)

Either may have cumin, or pepper, and they’ll both will certainly have garlic.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 2. The Meat

Besides the spices, is the form of meat. The meat for a gyro is a ground blend, usually some combination of lamb and beef, formed into a loaf before roasted on a spit. The shawarma meat cone is made from packed-down slices of marinated meat—often chicken, sometimes lamb, and occasionally even goat.

3. Toppings

Lastly, gyros are typically topped with onion, tomato, and tzatziki—a cold sauce made of strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil. Schawarma, on the other hand, has a more diverse salad-bar,including tahini, tabbouleh, fattoush, cucumber, and hummus…but no tzatziki.

I love them both!

As for my favorite spot, that’s easy, my #1 for all Middle Eastern foods is Wilsonville’s Dar Essalam Moroccan Restaurant. (The apricot lamb-shank tagine is to die for, as well!)

Chef Perry


The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese SandwichI love Cabot cheese. I think you KNOW that I love Cabot cheese.

As a member of their “Cheese Board” (get it?) I get regular deliveries of cheesy goodies on my doorstep. Which, let’s face it, is pretty freakin’ awesome.

Recently, this box from Heaven contained a cheese I hadn’t tried before. A “Tomato-Basil” Cheddar.

Now, another thing I love is all things caprese (tomato/mozzarella/basil), so when I saw this lovely block of white cheddar labeled “Tomato-Basil”, it didn’t event require a second thought…

What could possible be better for the Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

Yeah, it rocked.

Oh, and if you can find this “Everything” Italian bread…it was amazing!

Chef Perry
MY KITCHEN Outreach Program

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
4 thick slices of rustic artisan bread (your choice)
3.5 oz Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar Cheese (sliced ½ inch thick)
1 firm beefsteak tomato, sliced
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Coarse sea salt, to taste

Brush each sliced of bread (both sides) with a little olive oil.

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Layer 2 pieces of the bread with cheese slices and chopped basil.

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Pre-heat a nonstick pan over medium-low heat, and drizzle with a melted butter. Grill sandwiches until golden brown, add tomato, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, to taste.

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Top both pieces with remaining bread, flip and grill until cheese has melted.

DO NOT cover the pan with a lid to melt cheese, it will make your bread soggy!

 Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

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To serve, cut in half and serve hot, maybe with a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Krusteaz Breakfast Night!

Krusteaz Breakfast Night

Working with Krusteaz to promote “Breakfast Night” and I just got my gift pack in the mail, woo-hoo! We will be offering a reader giveaway for a similar gift pack directly from the fine folks at Krusteaz.

That’s where I need YOUR help. What kind of contest should we have? Best pancake photos? Most unique use of pancake mix? Best topping recipe? Best pancake story?

What do you think?

Chef Perry


Spicy Steakhouse Devil Eggs

Spicy Mustard Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are one of the great comfort foods of my youth. Growing up in a Southern family, everybody made deviled eggs, and every party or family gathering had several platters of these beauties, each one some aunt or cousin’s “secret” recipe.

My mom, of course, made the best deviled eggs ever: heavy on the mustard, light of the relish.

Southern-style deviled eggs are, classically, filled with nothing more than egg yolks, mayonnaise, mustard and sweet pickle relish.

For this recipe I’ve omitted the relish. The hot, savory note of El Diablo Steakhouse Mustard creates a completely unique, amazingly delicious flavor and what is, easily, the best “devil egg” I’ve ever had (and again, I am a total deviled egg slut!) The title is my play on “El Diablo.”

In El Diablo’s own words, “Bold flavors. Great Taste. Hot as Hell.”

These ain’t your Grandma’s deviled eggs…but she’d love them! This makes for great appetizer for those upcoming Labor Day weekend parties, as well!

You can see more El Diablo Hot & Spicy Mustard recipes that we’ve created, here and here.


Chef Perry

Spicy Steakhouse Devil Eggs
12 organic farm-fresh eggs
1 Tbsp. vinegar
4 Tbs. Best Foods Real Mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. El Diablo Steakhouse Mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Smoked paprika for garnish

Put the eggs in a single layer in a saucepan, cover with cold water (2 inches over the tops of the eggs), add a Tbs of vinegar and ½ tsp of salt. Bring water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for one minute.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes

How to peel hardboiled eggsRemove eggs from the pan, place in a bowl of ice water, and rest until eggs have cooled completely.

NOW… Halve hard-cooked eggs lengthwise and carefully scoop yolks into a bowl and mash, setting the whites aside.

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks and mayonnaise, then stir in the mustard. Stir in the salt and pepper, then taste and adjust if necessary. Stir well with a spoon to achieve a creamy texture.*

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Fill the egg whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with a sprinkle of smoked paprika. (Or, if you’re really a hot head, try dusting each with a little Volcano Dust Bhut Jolokia Pepper (ghost pepper) Powder…but do so at your own risk!)

*NOTE: Mama never had a stand mixer, but I do. When doing a dozen or more eggs, I like to combine the ingredients in my Kitchen-Aide and give them a good whip, for a lighter, fluffier filling. If making less than a dozen (which is seldom) I use a hand mixer.

Also, sometimes I’ll replace the salt with a teaspoon of my favorite bbq dry rub, just to kick it up a notch!

El Diablo Steakhouse Mustard

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Please note that compensation and/or “free” product does NOT effect my opinions in any way. I strive to provide 100% honest feedback about the products being reviewed. Also note that SimplySmartDinnerPlans does not accept any liability from the purchase or use of any products reviewed on this blog.

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Sweet Southern Oatmeal

Sweet Southern Oatmeal Recipe

If you’re a fan of oatmeal, you’re going to love this sweet, Southern (and healthy) version of this breakfast classic..

Sweet Southern Oatmeal RecipeSweet Southern Oatmeal
2 Servings
2⁄3 cup old fashioned/steel cut oatmeal
1 1⁄3 cup Water
Dash of salt
1⁄2 cup canned/frozen unsweetened peaches, sliced
2 tablespoon pecan halves or slivered almonds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup unsweetened, vanilla almond milk
1-2 packet artificial sweetener (Truvia, Splenda, etc)

Cook oatmeal with water and salt, according to package instructions. Remove from heat and allow to cook until slightly thickened.

Combine with remaining ingredients, stir, and reheat in microwave for one minute.

Stir again, sprinkle with additional almonds or pecans (optional), and serve.


Chef Perry

Sweet Southern Oatmeal Recipe


Creamy (& healthier) Peanut Butter Spread

Peanut Butter Tofu Spread

Caged this recipe from the Biggest Loser website, and it’s become my new favorite mid-morning snack! If you like the filling of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, you’ll love this lower cal, lower fat spread!

Creamy Peanut Spread
Makes 12 (2-Tbs) servings

Blending creamy peanut butter with silken tofu cuts the calories and fat by nearly two-thirds. It’s the perfect high-protein snack, whether spread on a whole grain cracker or used as a dip for apple slices or raw vegetables  My favorite so far is with jicama sticks!

1 cup (about 9 oz) silken tofu, drained
1/3 cup peanut butter
4 tsp honey
2 tsp lime juice

Place the tofu, peanut butter, honey, and lime juice in a food processor and process until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

60 calories, 3 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates (3 g sugars), 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 30 mg sodium

This is less than 1/3 of the calories, 1/4 total/saturated fat and sodium, and 1/2 the carbs of an equal amount of creamy peanut butter.


Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Shallots


What a great class this week! We took the youth to the local Fred Meyer (They’ve been amazingly generous with our program, so we like to reciprocate whenever possible!) and cruised the aisles talking about how to shop, fresh vs. not fresh, checking labels, how to stretch your budget and still eat real food, etc.

Then, to REALLY get them out of the box, we gathered up all of the ingredients for braised Brussels sprouts with Bacon (recipe below), and then went back to the kitchen to learn how to cook these always popular (ha ha) little cabbages!aPost - Copy

THEY LOVED ‘EM! (Even Mark, our fearless leader from Impact NW who was…dubious, to say the least! LOL)

Next class is the appreciation dinner, where the kids will prep, cook, and serve a 5-course gourmet dinner for the Impact NW staff, their own foster parents, and other VIPs!

Thank you!

Chef Perry

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Shallots1½ lbs. Brussels sprouts
½ lb smoked bacon
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter
Kosher salt to tasteTrim the stems off the Brussels sprouts, then slice a small “X” in the stem end, about 1/2 inch deep.Dice the bacon and add to a cold sauté pan along with the diced shallots.
Heat slowly over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the fat starts to render and the meat turns golden brown and crispy but not burnt.Add the Brussels sprouts and sauté over medium-high heat for a few minutes, or until they’re slightly browned.
This caramelization will add a lot of flavor to the recipe.Add the stock, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half (5 to 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
Stir in the butter, season with Kosher salt and serve right away!

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.



Garden Scramble with “Everything Bagel” Cheddar

As part of the Cabot Creamery “Cheese Board”, I’m lucky enough to get a box of goodies delivered to my door once a month!

Cabot Cheese BoardYesterday I was once again greeted by the friendly FedEx man with a box filled with lots of great stuff. A heavy canvas shopping bag (look out Farmer’s Market!), a snazzy wine-bottle multi-tool, a huge dish cloth, and, of course, some more amazing cheeses!

Of the three samples I received this time, the “Everything Bagel Cheddar Cheese” caught my eye, and got my mouth watering.

I do love me a good everything bagel, and cheese is, of course, one of my favorite food groups, so the thought of combining the two…had my attention.

Cabot Everything Bagel Cheddar

Of course, Cabot nailed it. It’s exactly what a really good everything bagel would taste like, if topped with a thick slice of excellent white cheddar. Lovely stuff!

After I recovered from my initial swoon, my first thought was,”This would make some killer eggs!”

I was right…

Everything Bagel Scramble

Garden Scramble with “Everything Bagel” Cheddar

3 farm-fresh eggs
2 Tbsp. milk or cream
2 Tbs. butter, divided
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup each red/yellow/orange bell pepper
Dash of salt & pepper
1 Tbs. fresh parsley, divided
1 Tbs. fresh cilantro, divided
2 tsp. fresh chives, divided
3 oz. Cabot “Everything Bagel” Cheddar Cheese
1 round of flatbread (optional)

Mise en Place:

Whisk eggs until just combined, with milk, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mince garlic, dice peppers, and chop fresh herbs. Cut cheddar into 1/4 inch dice. Warm flatbread. Toss herbs to combine.

Prepare the Dish:

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat and saute garlic, peppers, and 1/2 of the mixed herbs, until peppers just begin to soften. Remove from skillet, set aside and keep warm.

Add remaining butter to the skillet. When butter is hot, pour in the egg mixture and shake the pan until eggs are mostly set (see our post on Perfect Scrambled Eggs, here!)  Next, add the sauteed veggie, herb mixture and cheese cubes, toss, remove eggs from heat and cover until cheese has melted.

To serve, divide scramble between two plates, top with remaining pepper mixture and fresh herbs, and serve with warm flatbread.

Eating in the garden is optional.


Chef Perry

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