Friday, August 29, 2014

Tuna Casserole Makeover

I love tuna casserole – I mean, is it even possible to have grown up in the 70s and not love tuna casserole? I can’t remember if this is something my mother ever made, but I know I had it at friends’ houses and it was always a favorite. I’ve been making it for years using the recipe from the back of a package of egg noodles and it’s always yummy. But… what if you don’t want a can of soup? What if you want to reduce the fat in the dish? I know, radical moves, man… but it can be done!

First, no canned soup. Toss the tuna with lemon and some olive oil for brightness, and then make a heavenly cheese sauce in place of the soup. You will be so happy, you’ll never go back to The Old Ways. Oh all right, we’ll keep the frozen peas. Frozen vegetables retain more of their vitamins than canned and don’t contain preservatives, so they get a pass. (Gotta keep the mid-century feel somehow.)

Noodles play a big part in many casseroles, especially this one. Heck, some versions are called Tuna Noodle Casserole, so you see they’re not messing around. You can use traditional egg noodles, but I like whole wheat pasta and I like to vary the shape, from spirals to penne to shells. Go crazy… it’s like the art you made in kindergarten with pasta and glue, only you eat it. (You didn’t eat the glue, did you? Oopos sorry.
sautee the onions first...

Finally, you can make this with canned salmon if that’s what floats your boat, and I must say that is a mighty tasty version.  I might consider adding chopped scallions or chives next time. Who knew tuna casserole was going to turn out to be such a blank canvas! Whip some up for dinner today and let me know how you like it.

12 oz noodles
Salt and pepper
3 (5 oz each) cans tuna (in water) drained thoroughly
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
½ onion, chopped fine
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup ½ and ½
6 oz shredded cheese
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp butter

1.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil on stove top in Dutch oven. Add noodles and 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
2.       Combine tuna, 2 tsp oil, lemon juice ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper in a medium bowl and flake tuna into chunks with a fork; let sit for 10 min.
3.       In now-empty pot, heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook till translucent, 6-8 min. whisk in broth and ½ and ½ and bring to a simmer for 2 min. Remove from heat and whisk in shredded cheese, a handful at a time, till melted. Stir in cooked noodles, tuna mixture, peas and ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper (to taste).

4.       Transfer mixture to casserole or baking dish. Toast panko breadcrumbs in small pan with melted butter and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake until sauce is bubbling around edges, 12 to 14 min. Let cool slightly before serving. 

toasting breadcrumbs with butter to top it

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Carrot Muffins

Yes, I have made carrot muffins before (with a recipe for carrot cake, see it here) and those were YUMMY but these are… I don’t know, different? Take my word for it, you want to make these. AND you can eat more because they are even better for you than my previous version. ½ whole wheat flour! Just over 200 cal each! Your whole house will smell amazing, and when they are hot just out of the oven, there is NOTHING like them. What are you waiting for? Try these NOW!!!

I saw a version in the new Sunset Magazine (yes, I do read it as well as collect the old books!) for “Miracle Carrot Muffins” and it reminded me of an old recipe from 1960’s “The Sunset Cookbook” in particular because I wanted to make healthy carrot muffins, but I hate raisins. I recalled a yummy recipe for Prune Bread, but… well, we’re not always in the mood for prunes, I get it. Instead, dried cherries. And while they sound great with cream cheese and orange zest, you seriously do not even need that. Seriously.
This prune bread is really good, but these muffins are perhaps more "accessible"

The technique is the same: soften the dried fruit in hot water, but this new version is easier and (shocking) you don’t even need a mixer. Got totally off the grid, man!

Grating carrots smells SO GOOD! but... use a food processor, duh!

No mixer, just "whisk" the flours. OK.... 

Softening the dried fruit while melting the butter - this smells HEAVENLY and very fall-like. Who needs scented candles???

Going into the oven...

1 1/3 cups sugar
¼ cup butter (in you want to make these vegan, use margarine)
1 ¼ cups shredded carrots (food processor, hello!)
1 cup dried cherries (or raisins, eww)
1 tsp. each salt, cinnamon, and ground allspice
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup each all-purpose and whole wheat flour
1 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda
4 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp. orange zest

1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put sugar, butter, carrots, raisins, salt spices and 1 1/3 cups water in a medium saucepan. Heat over high heat, stirring occasionally, just until mixture comes to a boil.
2.       Whisk flours, baking powder and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Pour in warm carrot mixture. Stir to combine, but do not overmix.
3.       Spoon mixture into greased muffin cups.
4.       Bake until browned and a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 min. Let cool on a rack.

15 min later = YUM!

5.       Blend cream cheese with zest and serve with muffins (optional)