Monday, August 20, 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole - A Favorite Comfort Food!

I arrived at Michael’s on Saturday and we made do with meals consisting of take-out and my leftover fish and chips lunch from Red Robin that I had the day before. With nothing planned for cooking on Sunday, I took inventory of what we had and found tuna, cream of mushroom soup, noodles and frozen peas, so I decided to make a Tuna Noodle Casserole. The only thing I needed was potato chips and since we don’t keep those around the house, because chips are a weakness of ours, I did need to make a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up a bag.

I can’t remember the last time I even had tuna casserole, it’s probably been at least……..well, let’s just say it’s been a long time. But for some reason, I’ve been thinking about it and craving it for several months, so the decision to prepare it for lunch wasn’t difficult. Since I have never made tuna casserole before, I began my search and found a couple of recipes that looked a little like the casserole I remember eating as a child. Then I decided to ask the maker of the tuna casserole of my past, my sister Jean. When I was little, I used to spend a lot of time with my sister and her family, mostly because her children, my niece and nephews, were only a few years younger than me and we often played together, and she and her family also spent a good bit of time at my parents’ home, so I ate a lot of my sister’s cooking. Even though she has always been a good cook, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of her delicious meals over the years, this has been one of her dishes that I remember the most. I imagine, since money was tight for her young family, it was a cheap and easy meal to prepare for a family of five, and her little sister, therefore was made frequently.
Between what I found on the internet and some input from Jean, I was able to come up with the following recipe.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Print Recipe

1 (12 ounce) bag egg noodles, cooked al-dente
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup, not diluted.
3/4 cup milk
2 (7 ounce) cans tuna, packed in water, do not drain!
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
1 cup green peas - used frozen straight from the bag.
1 generous pinch black pepper.
1 cup crushed potato chips

Oven Temperature: 375°F
Preheat oven.
Crush potato chips and set aside.
Cook noodles according to package for al-dente, and drain.
In a large bowl, combine noodles, soup, milk, tuna, peas, salt and cheese, if using; mix to combine and coat well.
Pour into a buttered baking dish.
Sprinkle crushed potato chips evenly on top.
Bake, uncovered for 30 min until bubbly.
Servings: 4 to 6

I had some tuna in foil packages on hand so used 6 (2.6 oz each) of those.
Cream of celery soup may be used in place of cream of mushroom.
I know, I'm missing step by step pictures. Well, first, I really hadn't planned to blog about this just yet but then changed my mind and second, this is such an easy dish to prepare that I really don't think pictures would be that helpful. It's basically a mix and dump recipe....I think there were a lot of meals like that in the 60's and 70's.

Wanted to show you these cool new oven mitts that I just bought. I always worry about dropping the casserole dish when I use my other mitts since the dish doesn't have any handles. One day when I was browsing at TJMaxx I found these, they have ribbed silicone pads, great for gripping the dish and my hand slips inside the mitts and are protected from coming in contact with the oven and racks. I also use them when handling my hot cast iron skillet and when taking the insert out of my crockpot when it's hot. I love them! They aren't my favorite color but that was all I could get.

I really don't remember whether my sister's tuna casserole had a potato chip topping on it or not but I liked the idea so went with it. I put some chips in a plastic food storage bag and squeezed until they were crushed.

Michael was more than ready to dig in. By the time I got back from Giant Eagle, he was hungry and even grabbed the bag of chips and started eating those. I was afraid there wouldn't be any left for the casserole.
He's a little bit of a messy guy - I should have cleaned off his bowl before taking the photo but he didn't want to wait that long, I'm surprised he stopped long enough for me to take this picture. Don't try to touch the dish of a starving man.
I didn’t know if Michael liked tuna casserole and really wasn’t sure that I still did. When I was little, I used to eat cold spaghetti out of a can and now the thought disgusts me almost as much as it used to my older brother when he witnessed this display.

Mmmmm, it's as good as I remember! Michael liked it too and said he wanted to go back for seconds but was afraid of eating too much. This is definitely going to be prepared again.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Roasting Garlic in the Slow Cooker

When was my last post? Back in March, longer if you count the last time I posted about a recipe. Well, I think it’s time I to get back to blogging. I no longer have an excuse not to….my cataract surgery is behind me so I’m able to see a lot better. Yes, this big baby survived – the thought of the surgery had me terrified but the surgery itself was nothing, I’ve had worse dental visits. Then the heat wave of 2012 hit and I didn’t want to do much cooking, even with AC in the house. I had an unexpected visitor; I found a raccoon in my house – yes a real live raccoon and believe me that had me freaked out for a long time. The raccoon was captured and released and thanks to my two wonderful brothers’ – in- law, I now have a cover on my chimney and shouldn’t have any more unwanted visitors making their way down through the fireplace – sorry Santa. My nephew, his wife and their two daughters (who live in Washington state) came to Ohio for a visit so I spent two days helping my sister shop and cook, getting ready for their visit and a family gathering she had planned. A major storm blew through on June 29 and caused a lot of damage and power outages (actually happened while my sister and I were trying to get the shopping and cooking done for her son's visit), fortunately we all made it through with only a little inconvenience. Now we are in the middle of a major drought - as is the rest of the midwest. So things have been a little crazy/busy. Now I'm at Michael’s but haven’t been cooking a whole lot and when I do, it’s mostly been things I’ve already blogged about. I have tried a few new recipes but wasn’t ready to blog about them yet. I’ve also been trying to keep up with all the lovely fruit and veggies that I’ve been getting at the farmers markets – been baking a lot of pie and cobbler.

Now it’s time to get down to business. Sometime during the winter I decided to check some cookbooks out of the library, one of which was the Slow Cooker Revolution, by America’s Test Kitchen. I had tried a slight variation of their Sticky Wings recipe, that I read on another blog, a few months before and liked it a lot, Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken, is now a favorite around here and I prepare it often, and was anxious to actually see what this cookbook had to offer. I saw several recipes that I wanted to try but the first one that I decided on was how to roast garlic in the slow cooker. I love roast garlic and use it a lot in mashed potatoes but have been roasting it the old fashioned way, in the oven. So, the next time I made garlic mashed potatoes, I pulled out my Crock Pot and the recipe from the Slow Cooker Revolution and put this new method to the test.

Slow Cooker Roasted Garlic
America's Test Kitchen
Print Version of Recipe

5 garlic heads
2 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Slice top 1/2-inch from each garlic head to expose cloves.
Pour 1/2 cup water into slow cooker. Place garlic heads, cut side up, in slow cooker.
Drizzle each head with 1/2 teaspoon oil and sprinkle with pinch salt.
Cover and cook until garlic is soft and golden, 4 to 6 hours on low.
Transfer garlic to cutting board, let cool slightly, then gently squeeze to remove cloves from skin.

Roasted Garlic can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Source: Slow Cooker Revolution, America's Test Kitchen

I use my 3 1/2 quart CrockPot.
I usually roast 4 heads using 2 T of olive oil. Mash them up while still warm and add to mashed potatoes.

I know the recipe calls for 5 garlic heads but I usually just use 4, that's the amount that I put in my mashed potatoes. I make Ree Drummond's (The Pioneer Woman) mashed potatoes and they are delicious!

This is after the garlic has cooked for about six hours, on low.

I removed them from the slow cooker and let them cool for a while before squeezing them to release the garlic.

Look at all the beautiful garlic!

I then like to put it in my small food processor and chop it up until smooth. Can also mash it up with a fork, or probably even a immersion blender.

Here it is - ready to put in mashed potatoes or spread on bread - yum!

Ever since I first made garlic in the slow cooker, I haven't prepared it the oven. Yes, it takes longer so you have to plan a head but I don't mind since I'm a planner anyway. I like how nice and soft the garlic gets and I've never over roasted and dried it out like I have in the oven.

This recipe is definitely a keeper and so is the cookbook! After trying a few more recipes, one for rice pudding and another for brown rice, plus seeing several more I wanted to try, I broke down and bought a copy.
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