Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tuna Noodle Casserole and a Bonus Recipe

Tuna Noodle Casserole (or Toona Noona, as one of my kids called it) is not high class fare, but it has its advantages. It is quick, and my whole family will eat it.

Half of that changed when I came down with the soy allergy.

Canned Cream of Chicken--or Cream of Mushroom, or Cream of Celery--soup contains soy. You could make a white sauce for the casserole, but then you've changed what makes this dish most appealing--after the pasta is cooked, the whole thing takes 10 minutes, tops, if you leave off buttered bread crumbs, which we do because the kids think they're disgusting. They will eat it with crushed potato chips, though. Big surprise. Anyway. . . .

Heloise solved this one. Sort of. The Hints from Heloise column had a recipe for a "creamed soup mix" that involved dried everything, including milk. You just added water, heated it, and Presto! Quasi creamed soup. Or creamed quasi soup. Or something.

I have been known to use dried ingredients, but instant powdered milk as the main ingredient only shows up in one thing in our house (more on this later). So, what to do? Take the concept, replace the dried milk and water with real milk, and try it out. It worked. Here is our new standard:

Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 ounces shell pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs, such as Italian or Herbes de Provence (without lavender)
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning (optional)
2 cups milk
2 6-oz cans soy-free tuna*
1 4-oz can sliced mushrooms

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, undercooking by a minute or two. Drain. Put back in the same pan.
2. While the pasta is cooking, mix all the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Open and drain the tuna and mushrooms
3. With the pasta back in the pan, but off the heat, stir in the flour mixture. Put the heat back on to medium.
4. Stirring constantly, slowly add the milk. Heat the mixture, stirring once in a while, until it bubbles. Add the tuna and mushrooms.
5. Let sit a few minutes on low heat to give the pasta a chance to absorb some of the liquid.

*A word about soy-free tuna. It's hard to find. That "vegetable broth" a lot of tuna is canned in, is usually some combination of soy and other things. Trader Joe's has tuna in plain spring water, with salt or salt-free, and so does Whole Foods. I am told that expensive imported Italian tuna in olive oil is fine, too. If you can't find soy-free tuna, canned soy-free chicken is easier to come by, and it works in this recipe, too. In that case, you can omit the herbs and add a teaspoonful of curry powder or dried dill.

Bonus recipe:
Honey Nut Butter Candy

1 cup powdered dry milk
1/2 cup nut butter of your choice (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)
1/2 cup honey
ground nuts, sugar, colored sugar, or soy-free chocolate shot (ha! if you can find these, let me know.)

Mix the milk powder, nut butter, and honey together in a bowl until you can't see the milk powder any more. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls. (If it's hard to handle, refridgerate for a half hour to an hour.) Roll in nuts, sugar, or chocolate shot.

You can put this in little paper cups in a box for a nice presentation. We have alternated these with nut-stuffed dates rolled in sugar for gifts. It is easy for kids to make.

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