Friday, March 23, 2012

Author Recipe: The Origins of MacTunaPea

Written by Jeff Salter

I should probably explain that I’m not handy in the kitchen and I’m loathe to prepare dishes with multiple, complicated steps. My basic rule for meals is two steps: (1) open container and (2) nuke in microwave. I’m willing to stir contents or rotate the package – whatever – but no further ministrations.

So, with that explanation, you may well imagine a meal involving THREE containers and a total of FOUR steps ... is already stretching the limits of my skill-set.

I can’t claim to have invented the combination of macaroni and tuna fish ... in fact, it may be printed right on the box somewhere. But I know for a fact that I originated the addition of green peas to the mix. It was some time in the mid-1980s as best I can recall. [Note: I’ve since seen instructions for some sort of casserole which uses my primary ingredients – plus something else – and I’m certain they stole that idea from me.]


* 1 (12 oz.) box of Kraft macaroni shells with the cheese ‘sauce’ in a pouch [do NOT try to use the powered cheese substance — it’s nasty]

* 1 (12 oz.) can of white albacore tuna [I prefer StarKist, but any major brand will do as long as it’s packed in water and NOT in slimy oil] Note: you don’t really need 12 full ounces, but it needs to be quite a bit more than the standard 6 oz cans.

* 1 small (8.5 oz.) can of green peas [the peas are mainly for color ... and to keep my wife from eating it — ha]


* Boil water in medium-size pot

* Add macaroni

* Boil for 10-12 mins. (or whatever the box says)

* Drain off water

* Squeeze ALL the cheese from the pouch ... and mix well

* Dump in tuna ... and mix well

Important note:

If your spouse is willing to eat MacTuna but despises Peas ... this is the time to scoop out a bowlful and set that aside.

* At the very last minute, add the peas ... but do not mix-in too vigorously (because it breaks the peas open and they get mushy).

* Serve in a large bowl and enjoy.

Note: MacTunaPea also tastes very good the next day (assuming you properly refrigerate the leftovers). Just add a teeny bit of water to the leftovers before you nuke it.

* Nuke for about 45 seconds

* Stir and nuke again until it reaches desired temperature

CAUTION: bowl will be hot!


Book Title: The Overnighter's Secrets

Coming this April to Astraea Press...


When Beth left suddenly, it broke two hearts ... but she’d had no choice. Shane, a rugged, ex-Airborne biker, handled it badly ... but so had she. Three years later and 2000 miles away, she desperately needs her ex-lover’s protection from a violent menace with ‘bad history’ who’ll do anything to reclaim a mysterious suitcase Beth possesses.

Long before Shane acquired that overnighter, a ‘silent movie’ actress kept secrets there ... and now several lives are in jeopardy. An ambitious female state senate candidate hires a ruthless investigator to eliminate potential campaign ‘problems’ like her dark family secret — a bizarre 1889 murder.

Is Beth’s terrifying ordeal simply because she unwittingly possesses the overnighter’s secrets? Or is it due to the meth-fueled dumpster-diver’s ‘unfinished business’?

Shane will likely return to California after he resolves this Tennessee ‘situation’ ... so Beth struggles to resist her reawakened feelings. But before she can sort out their renewed relationship ... Beth is kidnapped! To rescue her Shane enters an obvious trap in a dilapidated hotel. Only with Beth’s help can both survive the violent struggle against her kidnappers.


The smell of freshly baked pizza entering is enough to make one’s mouth water...especially when the thoughtful individual added an order of succulent bread sticks, so warm that the steam was still rising.

Beth awkwardly hugged Shane as he clutched the boxes.

He put down the meal, then turned and embraced her properly. “I thought about you all day.”

It warmed her, but she couldn’t let down her guard. “I saw you less than two hours ago.”

“I forgot to tell you then.”

She eyed him narrowly. Something was different. “I thought you were focused on locating Ricks.”

“Trail went cold...and I was hungry.” He bit the end off a breadstick. “I feel like I’m real close most of the time, but he’s somehow able to stay one step ahead of me.”

Beth produced disposable plates. When she opened the box lid, she nearly swooned. Anybody who wanted to seduce her need only bring fresh, hot pizza. “What about that local contact. Was he any more help?”

“Couldn’t find him just now. Old barfly named Cratchit—busybody with a pretty good memory. All my solid leads came from him. Everything else is just instinct and looking at all the spots where skunks hide-out.” Shane scooped up two pizza pieces and looked around. “Table or couch?”

“Couch. I mean, table.” She caught a string of hot cheese on her chin. “Doesn’t matter. You get comfortable and I’ll join you.”

With the breadstick clamped in his mouth like a fat cigar, Shane carried his plate in one hand and the plastic cup of iced tea in his other. He placed both on the coffee table and sat on the sofa.

Beth watched briefly from the kitchen before she joined him.

“I’m going to try to find Cratchit again tomorrow and see if he’s learned anything new.” Shane sipped tea and took a big bite of the meal. It took a while to chew down sufficiently to speak.

She continued to watch him as she ate her own portion.

He noticed. “What, Bethany?”


“You’re staring. What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing.” She lied. “Well, yeah...noticing you’re different somehow.”

When Shane smiled, a morsel of crust fell onto his lap. He located it just below his buckle and plopped it back into his mouth. “”

“Not sure.” Beth squinted. “The word that comes to mind is ‘calmer’...but that’s not exactly right.”

Shane chuckled. “Calmer?”

“Okay. Then maybe more mature...or something.”

“Well, I am a bit older than I was...”

“No, I don’t mean older.” Beth picked up another slice. “Never mind.” She bit off a sizeable chunk.

Shane watched her chew. In a moment, he reached way over, plucked a strand of errant cheese from the corner of her mouth and placed it on his own tongue.

Beth’s eyes widened. This was a new Shane. The old Shane might have just pointed and grunted.

“Maybe I have matured a bit, Bethany. If that means it knocked me flat and sobered me up...when I lost you.” His eyes glistened.

Beth dabbed a pizza-stained paper napkin at her eyes. “I wasn’t lost, Shane. I had to move.”

“I know, Bethany, I know.” He moved his plate to the low table. “If I had a brother or sister who needed my help, I guess I would have gone away too. But I couldn’t see it back then. It hurt too....” He choked up.

Beth hurried to the bathroom sink to wash her face. She stared at the woman in the mirror and barely recognized the image. That person had aged six years in the past three...and another full year in the recent ten days. The woman in that looking glass had left her lover, lost her confidence, buried her brother, and now stayed constantly frightened. Who was she and what had she done with Bethany Muse?


  1. Ooh boy. I'm going to have to clear out some time in April to read the rest of this. It sounds great! My husband does most of the cooking in our house, but on the rare occasion when it's up to me, I like to fix dishes that have a minimum number of steps, too. At least yours covers all the food groups!

    1. LOL
      Thanks, Patty.
      Tell your husband that this dish is so simple even I can make it.
      And if it's served on paper plates, there's a minimum of clean-up involved! Enjoy.

  2. I so excited about your upcoming release, Jeff. It's been a long time coming and I can't wait to read it in its entirety.

    And seriously, what's up with foodies...always making these huge, excessively long and complicated meals. LOL. JK But I agree, too many steps and I'm looking for the take-out menus. Good thing hubby does most of the cooking. :-)


    1. This meal would've been a bit hit on your pirate ships, Jenn. Well, maybe not the tuna. Ha.
      For me, meals ought to be short and sweet. If dining out: cheap and quick.
      As you may conclude, I'm swimming upstream most of the time.
      Thanks for visiting.

  3. Now I'm craving tuna noodle casserole! It's the same, minus the peas--because peas are disgusting--and use cream of mushroom soup in place of the cheese.

    1. Jessie, that sounds like a great variant. How many steps?
      I guess yours has to bake for a while?
      Funny thing about peas: I don't recall liking them as a kid. But now I think they're great. But I'm so tired of green BEANS, that maybe my attachment to green PEAS is reactionary. Ha.

  4. Woohoo! I have been WAITING for one of your stories to be out. Yay! It's a great excerpt with a very evocative ending, so April can't come soon enough, Jeff.
    As for the recipe. I make mine with cream soup instead of cheese. And yeah, peas are optional for me. Why ruin a good carbohydrate rich, creamy dinner with vegetables? lol

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I really appreciate all your encouragement and kind words.
      Concerning the recipe: when you take out the green, the coloring is too bland for me. The green makes it 'pop'. Just forget that they're peas. ha.

  5. I loved the excerpt! Wonderful dialogue and emotion between Shane and Beth. Sounds like an intense story!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer.
      I had difficulty selecting the excerpt ... picked this one out of about a dozen potential samples.
      I hope readers will enjoy the story.
      It's special to me because the entire idea for this novel was inspired by the real-life belongings of a silent movie star.

  6. This recipe sounds like something my kids would enjoy! I'm putting your book on my TBR list!

    1. Lisa, if your kids don't like peas (which is evidently a minor epidemic) just put them aside a bowl without the peas. That means more peas for YOU!
      Hope you enjoy the book. It won't be long now, hopefully.

  7. Nice excerpt. Btw, does your wife know you added the peas so she wouldn't eat any? Lol.

    1. Well, Delaney, this particular 'dish' has developed quite a mystique in my extended family. When my wife's on-board with the concept of tuna & mac at all --- I always carve out a bowlful for her with NO peas.

  8. My mother always made it tuna-mac casserole with green peas, but I'm sure not with your flair. You know what they say--no new stories, just old stories told in a new way. I'm looking forward to your release. In the meantime, please let us know where to place the emphasis in TunaMacPea. Would it be similar to Nanny McPhee?

    1. LOL, Chris. When I say the title, it's Mac-TU-na-pea.
      But my wife partly inverts it and says TU-na-mac-pea ... which sounds rather like Nanny McPhee.

  9. This sounds exactly like something my teenage boys would LOVE! This is a keeper! Thanks, Jeff. AND the new book sounds wonderful!! Can't wait!

    1. Thanks, Tonya. Your on-going encouragement has meant a lot to me.
      Yeah, youse guys would enjoy my dish. For your hungry boys, however, you might oughtta double the recipe!

  10. HAHAHA, Jeff! My mom made Tuna Mac with thawed frozen peas, way back in the 60s. She also used boxed elbow macaroni and hand-shredded cheese. So your recipe is safe. ;-D Your excerpt sounds intriguing!!

    1. Well, Meg, if your Mom was making this dish back when I was still a teen-ager ... then my million dollar invention may be in jeopardy.
      Does this mean you won't be attending my big Patent Party?

  11. I'll have to give it a try! My kids will eat the peas, but my hubby won't. Wonderful excerpt! :)

    1. Thanks, Rebecca.
      What is it about spouses that they don't like green peas. Do they think the world was made of BEANS? Sheesh.
      Well, I'm glad my dish still has a chance with your kids.

  12. My husband puts peas in his mac & cheese, but we use the frozen kind. I think it gives him his veggies all in one. He would cringe at the tuna ;-)

    Enjoyed reading the excerpt, and I look forward to see more from you!

    1. Thanks Louisa.
      Tell your husband that it's bleached ham chunks. That ought to assauge him.

  13. You know you can't talk about food without MY input, Jeff. I do the tuna-noodle casserole with cream of celery soup and short-cut green beans. I had a friend had made it as a young bride.The husband told her he didn't like peas, so please not to put them in.She never did again, but whenever she made it, he told her not to put in peas... did it for over 20 years!
    As for your story, Buster, it sounds like every professional romance novel I have ever read...hard to believe that you are just getting out there! Congrats, Friend! I have to say, I really love the last paragraph, truly! Continued success!

    1. Thanks, Tonette.
      I thought my mention of a recipe might lure you over here. LOL

  14. Love the excerpt - think I'll pass on the recipe! :)

    1. Nell:
      re: excerpt --- Thanks!
      re: recipe --- you don't know what you're missing!