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Healthy Tuna Melt(down)

July 29, 2013

This never happens to me. But it happened last  week. You know the giant pharmacies. Where everything is automated on the phone and you have to wait forever to speak with an actual pharmacist. And it’s no better live and in person. I needed my doctor’s office to renew a refill. For a common vitamin, mind you. One that’s so popular, it’s always in stock. The call was made on a Monday. I go to pick it up on Wednesday.

The clerk informs me that the doctors’ office hadn’t called it in yet. She offers me the one refill that is ready. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow for the other one?” she offers. What could it take? Five, ten minutes? The customer behind me shakes her head and says, “It’s always like this.” “Why don’t you go somewhere else?” I say to her. “It’s convenient,” she replies.

Okay. I’ll go around the store. Check out the pens and paper section, read the nutritional content of some snacks, look at the Burt’s Bees display. Very nerdy, I know, but entertaining. I return. Long line. I do another tour and pick up a few items I don’t need. I return again. This time, no line. Good. “Is it ready?” I ask. “Let me check.” Our clerk checks on her computer screen. Did I mention there were five pharmacists/pharmacy assistants standing in a line just to her left at their computers?

“No. it hasn’t been called in yet from your doctors’ office.” I pull out my cell and call my doctors’ office. “Oh, we called it in on Monday,” says the nurse. “Really! Can you tell them?” I attempt to pass the clerk my phone. “Oh, no! We can’t do that!” cries the clerk. “She has to call us directly.”  I can understand that. I could have my car mechanic on the phone, for all they know.

Still patient. Minutes are ticking by. Clerk instructs me to go sit down and distractedly waves me towards a bank of chairs. No, thanks. I walk past all of her pharmacy co-workers who are standing there. At the Place Order window, I ask for the manager. “Uh, he’s not here right now,” is the reluctant response. I look down at my watch. I’ve been there for over forty minutes. “Your department tells me you never received a call from my doctors’ office. They tell me they called. They just called again. I know you stock this vitamin.” The guy behind the glass is looking down, completely disinterested. “And you’re not even giving me the dignity of eye contact. Please just go and fill this.” I feel myself speaking louder and louder. All the pharmacy people are studiously looking down at their keyboards.

“What is wrong with this place?” I’m crying now. “Haven’t you ever heard of customer service?” The guy behind the window shoves the vitamins towards me. “Take it,” he hisses. I start to get out my credit card. “No. Just take it and go.” I stare at him incredulously. “You want to buy me off for 8 lousy bucks? That’s disgusting! What kind of operation are you running?” I see a woman who I recognize as an assistant manager approaching with a large man who’s holding a walkie-talkie. Great. Now I’m  going to be thrown out of this place. “Do you want some water?” asks the assistant manager. “No, I want you to take a look at this. No one is looking at the customers.” The guy behind the counter hurriedly slips the medication description under the glass. That paper, is a requirement with every prescription. He didn’t even bother to give it to me until the manager came over.

“Are you security?” I ask the big guy. “No, I’m the senior manager.” I’m starting to think they’re going to throw me out of the store. “I’m so sorry,” the assistant manager, who’s actually quite sweet, keeps repeating. “The pharmacy department is undergoing new management”. “I’m sorry for you,” I say, looking at her, “that you have to work with people like this. No one takes responsibility. No one cares. No one even bothers to look at the customers.”

I’m a mess by now –  exhausted, hungry and wanting to go. Sweet assistant manager grabs a family-size box of tissues, tears it open and offers me one. “I’m so sorry,” she repeats again. “Are you sure you don’t want water?”  “No, no thank you, I say,” through hiccups, “I just want to go.” “I’ll walk out with you,” she says. “Why do you work here?” I ask.  “Why aren’t you at  Whole Foods where you can be around people who care about their work?” “I tried,” she whispers plaintively, “they didn’t accept my application and I need this job.” I hand her back the box of tissues. “No, keep them,” she says, pushing the box back at me.

I get in my car and drive directly to Whole Foods. In the parking lot, as I get out of the car, a young employee approaches with a shopping cart. “Would you like one?” he asks with a smile. “My name’s Jeremy” and extends his hand. “If you need anything, just let me know.” Jeremy, in one small act of kindness, you just turned the whole day around.

So, I figure meltdowns require comfort food. Jeremy helped immensely. But a tuna melt(down) might work wonders right about now..

I grew up with tuna fish sandwiches. It was one of the go-to sandwiches my mom used to pack for me to take to school. Tuna salad or egg salad. My mom was a working mom and every now and then, there would be a bit of shell in the egg salad. I loved both salads, but invariably I was a bit relieved on the days that it was tuna. That surprise crunch could be a little unnerving.

Tuna melt was reserved for special occasions. An early week-end supper made by my sister for just the two of us. Sometimes ordered in diners to  arrive with fries and a black & white milkshake. (If you don’t know what that bit of heaven is, it’s a milkshake made with both vanilla and chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup. Dreamy.)

A tuna melt is something I haven’t made in ages and it’s something I so loved as a kid,. Gooey with cheese, creamy and crunchy tuna salad sandwiched between toasted bread.  I don’t eat like that anymore.

But guess what? My Novio doesn’t see anything wrong with eating like that. I’ve seen him make tuna salad. Open can of tuna, drain it, add mayo. Add more mayo. Taste. Add more mayo… You get the picture.

To be completely fair, Novio informs me that it’s tuna packed in water, not oil.

albacore tuna packed in water plus healthier mayoI begin, as I’ve always done, and my mom before me, with Bumblebee Solid White Tuna, packed in water (hey! Is that why I found the word ‘bumbleberry’ so appealing? hmmm…).

I grew up with (Hellman’s) Best Foods mayonnaise. I also really like this local brand, though it’s not always easy to find.

Here’s what’s healthy about this tuna salad:

Dial down the fat content. The first step in doing this is deceptively simple. Use a fork to flake the tuna as much as possible before adding the mayo.  You’ll need a lot less mayo that way. Avoid adding a big gob of mayo first and mashing the heck out of it. Use a healthy, lower fat and natural mayo, if you can. Or, use the real thing sparingly.
flaking the tunaRamp up the flavor content with fresh herbs and lemon. Adding lemon juice also brings down the amount of mayonnaise needed.

fresh herbs and lemon for tuna

tuna saladChopped celery and green onion for us.

Select a good quality whole-grain bread to use as your base. We’re going to lower the carbs, sodium and everything else by making an open-face tuna melt. In lieu of a second slice of bread, we’ll use shredded lettuce (or spinach or any type of greens) for the top. You can also use a whole Romaine lettuce leaf to top your tuna melt.

tuna on whole grain bread

Select a low-fat cheese for melting. I like mozzarella, Jarlsberg or provolone. And poof.  You’ve got tuna melt redux.

a healthy tuna melt

Of course, there are so many other ways to make tuna salad healthy and a bit different: add apples, nuts, red pepper, jicama, grapes. As in so many other things, let your imagination decide. In this case, we’re going for an old-fashioned tuna salad in an updated and lighter form. When my Novio tasted this, he thought it was the old-fashioned version and was totally surprised when I showed him how little mayo I’d used. He even thought there was pickle relish in there. The acidity of the lemon juice fooled him!



6 oz. can solid white tuna packed in water, water drained
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 T. chopped fresh dill (or parsley or cilantro)
2 t. fresh lemon juice
2 t. great quality mayonnaise (and that’s teaspoons, not tablespoons!)
2 slices whole-grain bread
2 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese or low-fat Jarlsberg or provolone
salt & pepper, if desired


Flake tuna well with fork and add lemon juice and chopped herbs, celery and green onion (and salt &  pepper, if desired – I don’t use it). Add mayo, one teaspoon at a time to your desired degree of moistness. Remember, cheese will also add moisture.

Toast bread lightly. Place half the tuna salad mixture on each slice of bread and spread. Top each half with a slice of low-fat cheese. Bake in a pre-heated toaster oven (or oven) for 5 minutes at 400 degrees, or until cheese is just melted.

Top with shredded lettuce or a Romaine lettuce leaf.

Makes 2 servings.

tuna melt with fresh veggiesServe your favorite fresh veggies with your tuna melt. That always includes Persian cucumbers for me.

This is my tuna melt before I added lots more lettuce on top.

Next time a meltdown comes-a-calling, make a tuna melt to go with it.


From → Fish, Mains, Veggies

  1. Judy,

    This is Angela (blogger at Aloha Yinz Mangia), we met at Camp Blogaway. I remember you saying people love your blog not only for the recipes, but for the stories, too. This is the PERFECT example of that! I literally LOLed at the surprise crunch comment. Keep up the good work 🙂


  2. melinda permalink

    Hi Judy,

    I read your post at 8 am and got a very strong desire for a tuna melt for breakfast! I think tuna melts are the ultimate comfort food for our generation!

    Thanks! It was yummy!


  3. permalink

    Thanks for the tuna melt background and recipe. Look forward to trying it soon. N. Roberts

  4. Laura permalink

    Yummy! As always, it looks delicious ….
    Sorry to hear about your experience at the pharmacy..good for you in standing up for yourself and telling the manager…

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