Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If This Weather Has You Thinking Comfort Food... I have the recipe for you! I previously mentioned in a holiday post that I had made my mom's tuna noodle casserole for a co-worker who was having surgery, so she had some meals in the freezer while recovering. Anyone who has ever had this casserole LOVES it, so I had to share the recipe with you all. It is easy, and delicious to boot!

First off, the recipe and what you will need:

Mama W's Tuna Noodle Casserole

8oz egg noodles
2 cans tuna in water, drained
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
chopped onion
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 325 F. Cook noodles & drain. Mix all ingredients. Bake 40 minutes.

So, those are the basics. Some notes before I continue. "Back in the day", I used regular egg noodles. Now with the wide selection of whole grain or whole wheat noodles, I usually use the local grocery store's wide wheat egg noodles. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that the creaminess of the casserole comes from the cottage cheese and sour cream instead of canned creamed soups. If anyone else out there has high blood pressure, you understand the difficulty in finding food items low in sodium. (Soups, frozen meals, sauces, etc.) Canned soups are notoriously high in sodium. In fact even the ones marked "low sodium" still have levels of sodium above the recommended allowance for someone with high blood pressure. I also now replace the sour cream with Fage 0% fat Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt is another staple for me in my kitchen. (I use it in any recipe that calls for sour cream, I have mixed it with berries for a crepe filling, in place of sour cream on quesadillas, not to mention it can be a great snack on it's own--great protein boost!) The cottage cheese has some sodium, but the yogurt is extremely low sodium, as is the tuna. This is a way more low-sodium diet friendly casserole than most.

Another confession? I cheat with chopped onion in some recipes. One of the best things in the world (and on my lazy susan) is the giant container of dried chopped onion. I get it in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store, the brand is Badia. Any time I am making soups or a casserole, where the onion has juices or moistness to cook and soften, I totally bypass chopping a real onion and the burning, teary eyes and use the dried onion instead. It cooks right up like regular onion.

So I usually start the process by draining the tuna first, using the can lid to press out as much of the water as I can, then scooping the tuna into a bowl (and let the cats dig the remaining tuna from the cans as a treat). While the water is boiling, I prep all my other ingredients--cottage cheese and Greek yogurt into a large measuring cup, 1/4 cup dried onion in one measuring cup, the shredded cheese in another.

My large Pyrex bowl comes in extremely handy for dishes like this. First, I add the 2 wet ingredients, and add some fresh ground pepper.

Then add the onion:

Mix well. Add the cheese, stir again, add tuna, and stir again.

 Add the cheese and stir some more.

When the noodles are cooked, drain (but don't rinse!), and add to the tuna mixture.

Now, you can bake in a casserole dish, or if you want to separate some to freeze for another time, feel free. J & I recently joined a gym, so I have been looking for more dishes where we can have half when it is cooked, and freeze the rest for a week or so later on a gym night. Just thaw during the day, so that when we get home from the gym, we can reheat in the microwave or stove top, and still have a healthy meal. I used two individual Au gratin dishes, and put the rest in lightly sprayed muffin tins.

Then I add a little shredded cheese on the top,
bake for 40 minutes, and TA-DA!

When the mini-casseroles had cooled, I wrapped them in plastic wrap by twos, put them in a plastic bag, and into the freezer they went. This is how I made the casserole for my co-worker, but this is the first time I have tried it this way for us, so I am hoping it works out well. I like the idea of being able to grab two to thaw for lunch, or 4-6 to thaw for dinner, whatever the meal may call for!

I hope you consider giving this favorite a try--perfect for a cold winter day! My mom will be happy if you do!

Stay warm, and eat well!