While writing this column, I look out the window at the pond and the trees and all is very calm. I think it’s the calm before the storm, because the weather people say we have the first really cold front to hit us late this afternoon. Of course, by the time you read this, you already know.

Now, I love winter clothes a lot more than summer clothes. I had a problem transitioning my winter clothes to summer, but I finally got it right. Now I’m thinking it’s not going to be a problem getting back into winter gear. Well, I thought wrong, as always.

I’m not one of those women who have winter clothes here and summer clothes in another room or in the same closet, but organized. Personal note here to Cheryl: I’m so sorry I ruined your organized plan of organizing my closet while you were here being my nurse after hip replacement. But it seems I suffer from that Miss Scarlett thing. “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.” In other words, Cheryl, you would be so disappointed if you saw my closet. Let’s say, it’s not as organized as it was.

And to the readers, I am so sorry I can’t print what she must be saying as she is reading this. But she still loves me; I just know! I’m more like her sister, Terrie, when it comes to closets. Terrie, who is off to London with hubby, Michael, to see the Texans play isn’t here to dispute what I just said about her, so I hope it’s true. I did see her closet one time, so just sayin’ …

n n n

We all of a certain age remember the classic tuna casserole. My kids can’t ever say “tuna casserole” without making an ugly face. I can’t remember the last time I made one. But Ms. Becky sends us a new spin on the old classic that was cheap and easy to make and fed lots of people back in the day.

New Tuna Casserole with Potato Chips

Ingredients

1 (16-ounce) package ziti pasta

1 (8-ounce) package haricots verts (thin green beans), cut into 1-inch pieces

6 tablespoons butter, divided

2 medium leeks, thinly sliced

2 (4-ounce) packages fresh gourmet mushroom blend

1/4 cup (4-ounce) packages fresh gourmet mushroom blend

3 cups heavy cream

1 cup organic vegetable broth

2 cups (8-ounce) shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (12-ounce) can solid white tuna in spring water, drained

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or parsley

1/4 cup crushed potato chips

1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

2 tablespoons butter, melted.

Sliced fresh chives for garnish

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook green beans in boiling, salted water to cover 30 seconds to 1 minute or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and sauté 2 minutes; add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer leek mixture to a small bowl. Wipe skillet clean.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat; whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream and broth. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk in cheddar cheese and 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper.

Stir cream mixture into pasta. Stir in tuna, next two ingredients, beans and leek mixture; transfer to a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Stir together potato chips, next two ingredients and remaining 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese in a small bowl; sprinkle over pasta mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand five minutes before serving.

Thanks, Becky, for the new version of an old “favorite” dish. My kids might have gotten tired of the old-fashioned tuna casserole, but as I remember, the old version was very good. Maybe time makes me forget, but I do remember it was easy and cheap. Back in the day!

Since I don’t remember where the stove is in the kitchen, if someone makes this version, let me know what you think. I know if Becky liked it, it has to be good.

If you have recipes or tips to share, or a request, send to Conversations with Gin, P.O. Box 334, Clute TX 77531 or ginscolumn@hotmail.com.

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