Friday, April 23, 2010

Casseroles, Anyone?

Janet here: As a working and cooking mother, I am a big casserole fan. Not only is it easy to pull together a dinner quickly, but the possibilities are really endless for combinations. Seriously, all you need are the pasta of your choice, a sauce of some kind (whether it's cheese based or not), and the goodies you want to put together plus spices. And you can make it all ahead and just plop it in the oven when you crawl through the door at the end of the work day.

Casseroles can also be a great way to hide certain ingredients that you might be trying to get past certain children who shall remain nameless. While parenting magazines always suggest ploys like cutting the food into shapes like clown faces, etc as a way to get a picky eater to eat, that never worked for me. I had to be a lot more devious...not that I was particularly successful. My middle son, G, basically lived on cans of Dinty Moore for about five years while the rest of my family ate real food. I took solace in the idea that those cans contained at least a version of something that once resembled a vegetable.

But I digress. Here's my variation on tuna casserole. I hate mushrooms so you won't find one anywhere near this, although you should feel free to add if you wish. What combinations do you like to put together for casseroles? Dish it up. We all want to know.

Tuna Casserole
serves 6 or more

3/4 pound pasta--I use whatever I want but penne is particularly good
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely diced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups low fat milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 6-ounce cans tuna in water, drained
1 10-ounce box frozen peas
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped broccoli
1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and add the onions and celery. Saute until the onion is translucent, about five minutes or so. Add the flour and stir until the vegetables are well covered. Pour in the milk and broth stir over a low heat until the sauce thickens. Take it off the stove.

Mix the pasta, tuna, peas, broccoli and sauce in a large bowl. Pour into a casserole dish. Spread the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 35 minutes until the top is brown and the whole delicious concoction is bubbling slightly. Add some salad and French bread, and you are good to go.

Rachel here: I have never made a casserole. Seriously, not once. I'm not really sure why, although I suppose the fact that I don't own a casserole dish probably has something to do with this fact. Casseroles seem so warm and hearty, though, and so classically domestic that I guess I'm going to have to acquire the appropriate cookware and remedy this oversight in my cooking repertoire. Plus, with a kid on the horizon, I'm imagining easy dinners are about to become even more appealing than they currently are (and trust me, with John and I both on the move most of the time, easy dinners are already pretty darn appealing). And so, though I know my mom already said this, what do you put in your casserole? Whoever presents the most alluring combination will provide the recipe for my very first casserole, complete with a shout-out on the blog and everything...once I buy the freaking casserole dish, that is.

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