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let the summer of puppy commence

Recipe: tuna melt

Oh man. Summer is REAL, people. The furnace blast arrived with a vengeance last week and like the true heat wimps that we are – we retreated to higher elevations and sunrise/sunset activities. Neva is now almost 20 pounds and has been with us for a month. Recalling the first 24 hours with her (and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), she has come a long way in her training and development – and so have we! Part of her progress is simply growing up and gaining more coordination, strength, and speed. She no longer has to sniff and put every new plant, rock, stick, pine cone, or speck of dirt in her mouth. Neva is learning silly tricks now on top of the important commands. She let’s us know when she needs to go out to potty, she’s really good in her crate, and she is sleeping through the night (HALLELUJAH!). That last one was a serious game changer for the humans.


tossing her toy in the air and (sort of) catching it

moar swimming in icy cold lakes!!

neva gets at least one hike a day

she’s so mellow she sometimes falls asleep like this

running down the stairs with a toy



Neva is becoming a free range puppy, by which I mean, she roams parts of the house while we’re around and we don’t have to chase after her for fear of accidents or drive-by chewings on inappropriate things (like furniture, power cords, the compost bucket). She overcame her fear of the stairs in a matter of days – up was easy, down took a little coaxing. I can trim and file her nails while she sleeps (amazing!). We have her hiking up to 3 miles now and just this morning she did the rockiest, steepest hike yet – all on leash and behaving like a good dog should. Best of all, she likes to lie nearby while we are working and just nap or happily chew her toys. We still have plenty of work to do, but the stage of feeling hopeless was quite short-lived for us. I think Neva is becoming a Good Dog.

thimbleberry blossoms

the rare neva bloom amidst a potpourri of wildflowers

that’s my pack

shooting stars in a sea of summer green



Neva’s hiking progress has been of particular interest to me because I’d like to bring her with us when Erin, Banjo, and I hike and forage huckleberries. All signs point to Neva becoming a strong hiker and I think with some good long hikes together, she’ll learn to be a good companion to Banjo instead of a total pill (she seems to jump on his head less these days – that’s improvement).

As you can imagine, with all of the effort we’re putting into puppy training, I haven’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. In fact, I lost 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks of getting Neva because I was too tired to eat, let alone cook. We’ve been keeping things pretty simple out of necessity – mostly salads and sandwiches with the occasional ghetto pizza bread. One of those sandwiches is a tuna melt, which Jeremy loves and I like to pair with a bowl of tomato soup. I think of the tuna melt as an upgraded version of a tuna fish sandwich. If you really want to get 1970s throwback with it, stuff some jalapeño potato chips into the sandwich before eating (mmmm – so good!).


tuna fish, bread, lemon, mayonnaise, butter, pickles, salt, cheese, celery (not pictured: black pepper)

chop the pickles and celery

ready to roll



Tuna fish salad is quite a personal thing. Everyone has their opinions about what goes into it. I think tuna fish and mayonnaise are fundamental, but some folks like to add a touch of mustard. I like to add dill pickle relish (or just chopped dill pickle), celery, and green olives – but I omit the olives because Jeremy dislikes them. A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds some extra dimension, too. I also love adding chopped up boiled egg, although if you do that you are leaving the realm of tuna fish salad and entering the tuna fish and egg salad hybrid (which absolutely requires chopped green olives).

just a squeeze of lemon juice

mix it all up



My favorite bread for grilled cheese or any grilled sandwich is sourdough with enough airiness so that the bread isn’t dense and brick-like, but not so fragile and soft that it breaks into pieces when you spread butter on it. If you do happen to like Wonder Bread sort of bread, then just melt the butter onto the skillet and slap the bread over it. The cheese we favor is Swiss, but cheddar is also good (can be oily), or brie if you’re getting fancy pants. I dislike American “cheese”, but it seems to be the classic pairing for a tuna melt.

butter your bread

layer the cheese and the tuna salad

grill until the bread is golden and the cheese is melty



Simple. Fast. Highly rewarding comfort food. Creamy and crunchy tuna salad with gooey cheese and crisp, buttery grilled bread. It’s one way to recover all those calories after chasing a puppy around. And I *do* insert some Tim’s Cascade jalapeño potato chips into my sandwich – because it’s THAT good! Jeremy says Tim’s Cascade salt and vinegar potato chips work too. I’d love to know what others like to put in their tuna salad.

pair with chips and green salad

a classic



Tuna Melt
[print recipe]

6 oz. canned tuna fish, drained
2-3 tbsps mayonnaise
2 tbsps dill pickles, chopped (optional, but good!)
2 tbsps celery, fine dice (optional)
salt
freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
4 slices of bread
1-2 tbsps butter, softened
2-4 slices of cheese (cheddar, swiss, etc.)

Mix the tuna fish, mayonnaise, pickles, and celery together. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Butter each slice of bread on one side. On a non-buttered side of bread, layer the cheese, then tuna fish salad, then place a second slice of bread (non-buttered side down) on the tuna fish salad. Repeat for the second sandwich. Heat a skillet over medium flame. When the pan is hot, set the sandwiches down with the cheese beneath the tuna (i.e. not the tuna beneath the cheese). Let cook until the bottoms begin to turn golden and crisp. If the bottoms are browning too quickly before the cheese begins to melt, lower the heat. When the cheese is melting, flip the sandwiches over to brown the other sides. When the bottoms are golden and crisp, remove from pan and serve immediately. Makes 2 sandwiches.


more goodness from the use real butter archives

patty melt (animal style) grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich grilled steak and cheese sandwich reuben sandwich

25 nibbles at “let the summer of puppy commence”

  1. Trolleira says:

    Oh Neva is soooo cute! And you are soooo brave to have a puppy training and educating, I cant even guess what it really means, just reading between your lines!!

    And to help your strength: add smashed avocado to your tuna, I just love this mix!

  2. Pey-Lih says:

    YUM! YUM! So nice to read your blog – it feels like it has been awhile. Neva is SO ADORABLE, it’s ridiculous! Your tuna melt is making me crave a late night snack just before bed….what are you doing to us? :-)

  3. Joyce says:

    If we had a Neva, I could probably eat sandwiches the rest of the year…..:-) I love to add a little boiled egg to ours now and then and sometimes switch it up with sweet pickle instead of dill. My mom used to add the “egg” when I was little to get some extra iron into me. Sneaky but worked! Just sooooooo thankful for you guys sharing your life with Neva with us. We are grateful….and just love your recipes and…………simple is good sometimes too…….in cooking.

  4. Cat says:

    Man, I can’t believe Neva is 20 pounds already – they really multiply in size in the beginning! She didn’t look too much bigger than my cat when you first got her (though I suppose it can be hard to tell just by looking at pictures), and now she’s a good 2.5 times her weight.

    Tuna fish sandwiches were the bane of my existence in elementary school (probably because of that nasty gray tuna paste they used), but if they had served these tuna melts instead, I bet I would’ve been happy to eat them!

  5. Bette says:

    Neva is adorable!

    For my tuna fish sandwiches, I add celery, onion (Vidalia, please!), bread and butter pickles, and sweet crispy apple (chopped). I usually add a squirt of lemon and use Miracle Whip rather than mayo. Lots of black pepper. This version is particularly great as a salad or on crispbread crackers (open face).

  6. Kristin says:

    The new puppy diet! A favorite tuna salad sandwich from the Union at my university has sliced almonds in the salad, alfalfa sprouts on top, and it is served on a rye roll. Yummy! But their Fudge Bottom Pie is even better. Neva continues to be adorable, and your wildflower photos are so lovely. Our shooting stars are white, and were done in April, so it’s fun to see them again.

  7. jill says:

    Sometimes I like a little crunch in my tuna salad, so I dice a kohlrabi or jicama.

    Glad your baby is such a fast learner! She’s a beauty……..xo, j

  8. Grace says:

    That is one cute puppy! She is a lucky dog, living in such a paradise (meaning the lovely Colorado scenery and with such a loving family, not to mention the upcoming delicious food she’s gonna get!).

  9. Binsy says:

    For my tuna sandwich, I saute onions until brown, add salt/pepper/a bit of red chili powder and then add the tuna until heated up. Then I add the mayo and let it warm up also in the tuna mix. Finally scoop it all into a toasted pita bread and top with lays potato chips.

  10. Jasmine says:

    I guess you lost 8 pounds and the puppy gained them :)
    I confess, when I’m truly lazy, I open a can of tuna and dig a cracker in it and call it a meal.

  11. Andrew says:

    It’s 77 degrees where I’m at (granted, it could be worse), and all I want to do is pretend I’m Neva and jump in an icy lake. Congratulations with her progress :).

  12. Brenda says:

    I love reading about Neva (and your recipes too!). Glad to hear that she is doing so well in such a short time (although it probably seemed much longer).

    We lost our dog about the same time that you lost Kaweah, and are getting a puppy (litter is due 7/1). Our other dogs were rescues when older and were housebroken. So I’m REALLY nervous about dealing with a puppy. Your post has given me hope!

  13. Kath the Cook says:

    oh yes, Neva is beyond adorbs!

    my favorite tuna salad is solid white albacore, chopped onion, celery, bread & butter pickles (I like Wickle’s, they have a spicy kick), hard boiled eggs, maybe a little fresh or dried dill, a couple shakes of garlic powder, s & p, mayo (I think Miracle Whip is disgusting). good to go

  14. Chani says:

    beautiful pack!!! So much joy for you! As for my favorite tuna melt, i actually like to make my tuna mixture, put a little butter in a pan, and sauté the tuna salad straight in the pan, then add some cheese to melt, then transfer to a warmed bun! maybe a little messier, but a totally different flavor/texture!

  15. farmerpam says:

    I like tuna with chopped onions, pickles, just a touch of mayo (I’m not a fan of the stuff) and horseradish. S and P, of course. I like to make it on toast, with lettuce, tomato and sharp cheddar cheese. Yum, comfort food. And I wholeheartedly agree with the above poster, Miracle Whip, what is that stuff? So gross, the bastardization of mayo. And isn’t that Neva growing at warp speed! You guys are doing a great job raising the little pupster. :)

  16. sybil says:

    Free range puppies are the best! You are such a good fur baby mommy!! That tuna melt is yummy.

  17. Gneiss says:

    I always wanted to see Kaweah’s youngness – Neva looks like the reincarnation.

  18. Irmi from Munich says:

    “Hallelujah!” – Made me smile… Loved your post and those so many beautifullest pictures.
    Have a great time!
    Irmi

  19. Melanie says:

    Yum, yum, yum!!! Congratulations on your progress and accomplishments with Neva. They just have to learn what is expected and since we don’t really “speak dog” it can be challenging. Often a human’s interpretation of what the dog is doing is completely wrong as it is based on “human” behaviors. You may have some minor regressions in behavior as she goes through the various growth stages, but I know there will be more steps forward than there will be backward. She’s a very lucky pup and you guys are very lucky humans!

  20. Rose says:

    Watching the metamorphosis over the past year has been amazing. From melancholy to energetic puppy hood. I love the picture of the rare Neva bloom amidst the wildflowers. Thanks for all you do, Jen!

  21. Rebecca says:

    I had no idea we had thimbleberries in Colorado — I am so excited to see them! They make the BEST jam!

  22. Shari Q. says:

    Neva…What a sweetheart she is!

  23. angelitacarmelita says:

    My favorite tuna melt combo ever is tuna with olives and swiss (and mayo of course), so I loved reading your version which is so close to my own version of tuna melt joy (I thought I was possibly the only person that loves olives in their tuna fish). And I am so happy to read that things are going so well with Neva and her training, for her and especially for you and Jeremy (your pack… loved that). Love checking in and seeing what you guys are up to, it’s like calling an old friend you haven’t seen in ages, and picking up where you left off. Thanks for being you, and for the beautiful journey you continue to take us along with you and “your pack”

  24. monsoonmiss says:

    What a lovely coincidence, I haven’t made a tuna melt in ages but had one for lunch before I read your post today! Mine was on a soft wheat roll with pepperjack, and the filling ingredients were pretty much the same with the addition of red onion and dijon mustard, and it was topped with sweet and spicy pickles, romaine, and a super-ripe tomato. So tasty!

  25. jenyu says:

    Trolleira – oooh, what a great idea!

    Pey-Lih – :)

    Joyce – thank you xo

    Cat – right? I love both, but the melt is really something else! Also, puppies grow too dang fast.

    Bette – Mmm, apple sounds great!

    Kristin – yes, almonds! Love that combination. I’ve never seen white shooting stars except the occasional mutation from the hot pink ones :)

    jill – jicama is great in everything!

    Grace – she doesn’t get delicious food until she turns one :) Otherwise I think our training would go down the drain in no time flat.

    Binsy – sounds great!

    Jasmine – ha ha!! I wonder if that is what happened? Also, there are days when I have done that too, except I add Tabasco sauce ;)

    Andrew – thank you!

    Brenda – oh, good luck. I hope you love your little pup. Just remember that crate training is a wonderful thing. If they cry, let them cry (unless they haven’t pottied in a while, then take them to potty). Only give them attention or let them out when they are calm and sitting or lying down. Neva actually likes to go into her crate on her own and take naps while the door is open (when we’re home).

    Kath the Cook – that sounds delish!

    Chani – wow, what a fantastic idea! That sounds really decadent (and delicious).

    farmerpam – yes to the horseradish! Yeah, the Whip is not something I’ve ever gotten used to…

    sybil – thank you :)

    Gneiss – they are quite similar in many ways… but I wonder if that’s just because they’re both black labs? :)

    Irmi – thanks xo

    Melanie – she’s come a long way in just over 2 months (now). I think what you said is definitely true!

    Rose – awww, thank you!

    Rebecca – ooh, I have never harvested more than a couple at a time to pop in my mouth as I hike. I’ll have to keep that in mind!

    Shari – :)

    angelitacarmelita – yay for olive lovers! :) Thank you for your sweet comment xoxo

    monsoonmiss – oh, that sounds great! :)

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