Tuna Noodle Casserole

Several weeks ago, it came to my attention that my children had never had a tuna-noodle casserole.  I don’t know that I’d ever made one, and I don’t remember that my mom did, but I had certainly eaten them at friends’ houses when I was little.  It seems as though they were even part of school menus in my early years of public education.

I remember that tuna noodle casseroles definitely made it on the menu of my babysitter, Jana.  I don’t know how old I was when she kept me–maybe three or four years of age–but I remember that she would sometimes begin her supper preparation before my mom came to pick me up.  I would watch her make a tuna noodle casserole for her family, even volunteering to help crunch up the potato chips for the topping.  She would set the casserole on the table to await its turn in the oven…and I would watch for my opportunity.  Potato chips were a rare treat in my house, so as soon as Jana’s back was turned, I pinched some of those salty crumbs clean off the top of that unbaked casserole!  Can you imagine my nerve?!  I never gave a single thought to how disappointed her daughter, Nikki, would be to not have crunchy potato chips on the top of her portion of tuna noodle casserole!

I was a sneaky kid.  (And I loved junk food.)

Anywho, when my younger two children expressed an interest in trying out this Midwestern comfort food, I searched out a recipe.  While I made some changes to suit our family’s preferences (and my on-hand ingredients), this recipe is based on one that I found in one of my favorite freezer cooking cookbooks, “You’ve Got it Made” by Diane Phillips.  It’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to stock their freezer without stocking up on the usual high-sodium, preservative-laden canned soups and convenience foods.   

The recipe received 5 thumbs up at my table, even from the thumb that belongs to the daughter who does not like tuna.  Hope you enjoy it as well!

Oh, and Jana, if you ever read this, please accept my sincere apology.

6 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
a stalk or two of celery, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
4 dashes hot sauce (you will not taste the spiciness, but it does add flavor)
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 6-oz. cans tuna, well-drained and flaked
2 c. frozen peas
1 c. crushed potato chips (or more, if you have a sneaky chip thief in your house)
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 4 T. of the butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, sauteeing until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir until flour disappears.  Cook veggies 2 minutes, then gradually add broth and milk, scraping up any bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the hot sauce, salt & pepper.

Coat a 9″ baking pan with butter or cooking spray.  Spread thin layer of sauce over bottom of dish.  Combine noodles with 1 1/2 c. of sauce in large bowl, stirring until well-mixed.  Stir in tuna and peas until evenly distributed.

Transfer noodle mixture to prepared pan; cover with remaining sauce.  Combine crushed potato chips and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over casserole.  Drizzle remaining 2 T. melted butter over top of chips.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

NOTE:  If frozen, thaw completely before baking.

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Italian Meat Loaves

My amazing friend, Betsy, brought these little meat loaves to us after the birth of our son.  We have made them often since then, and I always appreciate the yummy meal as well as the sweet memory of my thoughtful friend.

By the way, that son Betsy helped us celebrate is making this recipe for supper tonight.  He’s (gasp!) fourteen now and will eat more than his share of these tasty meatloaves with multiple helpings of the peas and mashed potatoes he’s making to accompany them.  I asked him if he wanted to make the loaves in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day; he declined.

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. cracker crumbs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely-chopped onion
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 t. salt
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 lbs. ground beef, pork or turkey (or a combination)
1/4 c. ketchup or barbecue sauce

In large bowl, combine eggs, crumbs, milk, cheese, onion, Worcestershire, garlic, salt and Italian seasoning.  Add ground meat and mix well.

Shape into 10 mini loaves; place on rack in a shallow pan.  (A broiler pan works great!)

Drizzle ketchup or barbecue sauce over mini loaves.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-55 minutes, or until no pink remains.

These little guys freeze beautifully both before and after baking.

French Dip Sandwiches

 

One of my absolute FAVORITE sandwiches EVER!!

1 3-lb. (ish) pound beef roast
½ c. soy sauce
1 c. beef broth
1 bay leaf
3-4 peppercorns
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. garlic powder
1 c. water
6-8 hoagie rolls

Combine all ingredients except the roast and the rolls. Pour over trimmed roast in slow cooker.

Cook on low 10-12 hours.

Serve on rolls with sauce for dipping.

NOTE: This dish can be prepared with a frozen OR fresh roast. The roast can be thawed when it goes into the slow cooker OR placed in the slow cooker while still frozen. The leftover meat also freezer beautifully if you ever want to make a double batch to have some prepared meat in the freezer.

ANOTHER NOTE: My FAVORITE way to eat this is to have some cooked onions and Swiss cheese to put on top. I usually toast this sandwich, open-faced, under the broiler until the cheese is brown and bubbly, and then commence eating with a knife and fork. YUM!!

Italian Beef Sandwiches

 

This is definitely a special-occasion recipe for our family, and it’s also one of my favorite ways to prepare a beef roast!  I just put one of these in the freezer to pull out during the holidays.  Woo hoo!

1 3-4 lb. beef roast
1 jar pepperoncini or banana peppers
1 T. dried, minced onion
2 t. Italian seasoning
2 t. garlic salt
½ t. pepper
¼ c. water
1 ½ c. mozzarella cheese, grated
sturdy sandwich buns

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 8-9 hours until meat is tender. Shred with two forks. Spoon meat onto toasted buns; top with mozzarella cheese, if desired.

Beef Burrito Filling

This recipe can not only be used for burritos, but is perfect for taco salads, enchiladas, nachos, chimichangas and more.  This is one of my favorite homemade convenience foods to pull from the freezer.

2 lbs. ground beef
1 t. salt
2 t. minced garlic or 1 t. garlic powder
2 t. cumin
2 t. oregano
1 small can chopped green chilies
½ c. taco sauce or enchilada sauce
½ c. sour cream
¼ c. apple cider vinegar

In medium skillet, cook beef, salt, garlic and spices until meat loses its pinkness.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve inside tortillas, on taco salad or in taco shells with whatever other fixin’s you like.

NOTE: When re-heating after frozen, allow to simmer on stovetop about 8-10 minutes in order to allow the sharpness of the vinegar to mellow.

Ham & Cheese Sliders

This recipe captured my kids’ attention at a potluck.  The loved them!  I made a few changes, like eliminating the brown sugar and substituting swiss cheese, and I now include them in my Power Cooking classes as well as in some of our family’s special occasions.  They’re a fun recipe to have on-hand for munching when company comes or even on family movie nights.

If well-wrapped, the freeze quite nicely–especially if used within a month or so.

¾ c. melted butter
1 ½ T. Dijon mustard
1 ½ T. Worcestershire sauce
1T. poppy seeds
1 T. dried, minced onion
12 slider buns OR mini Hawaaian-type rolls
1 lb. thinly-sliced ham
2-3 c. grated Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9×13” baking dish.
In small bowl, combine butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds and dried onion.

Separate tops from bottoms of buns, placing the bottoms in prepared baking dish. Top evenly with ham and cheese. Place bun tops over ham and cheese. Pour sauce evenly over rolls.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Chicken Enchilada Dip

This easy appetizer is great with or without the chicken.  It can also be paired with a salad and eaten as a meal.  It’s a great make-ahead, because it refrigerates and freezes well.

 

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. shredded cheese
1 t. minced garlic
1 ½ T. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
1 can black beans, drained (Feel free to leave these out if you don’t want them.)
4 green onions, chopped
10-oz. can chopped green chilies

Mix cheeses together; add seasonings & mix well.

Cover & refrigerate overnight.

Heat in slow cooker, in microwave, in oven or on stovetop until ingredients are warm and gooey.

Serve with tortilla chips or sturdy vegetable dippers.