Veggie Tuna Noodle Cassrole after our family of 5 finished our weeknight dinner

Weekday Dinner: Veggie Tuna Noodle Casserole

In our family, this is not only a back-to-school time of year but also a sports-and-activities-taking-over-our-calendar time of year 🙂  I’m sure a lot of you can relate.  Between flag football practices for all three boys, PREP classes at our church, chess club at the library and afterschool activities, our weekday evenings are usually pretty full.  And none of these activities seem to allow time for a family dinner.  Sigh.  But…we do what we’ve got to do to make this work.  And that means planning ahead for our weekly meals and making use of the slow cooker as much as possible.  I also try to choose meals that can be fully or partially prepped ahead of time so that there’s not much left to do at dinner time to get a meal on the table. 

 

This is a kid-friendly, healthy and delicious meal that I made yesterday while the kids were at school and then popped it in the oven a half hour before dinner time so that we could still enjoy a warm, nutritious meal even when we were running around all afternoon.  As we were eating dinner, Joe shared his fond memories of tuna noodle casserole night when he was growing up – complete with crumbled potato chips on top.  There were definitely some benefits to growing up in the late 80s and early 90s!  When convenience foods and packaged foods were at their height and we hadn’t yet figured out that there might be a downside to all those additives and preservatives.  Ah, the good ol’ days!

 

The idea of a tuna noodle casserole has withstood the test of time because it is a crowd pleaser that can be prepared without too much trouble.  And while I’m sure that the potato chips were a big hit (and would be with my kids, too), this homemade version of the timeless classic does not include any cream of mushroom soup from a can or potato chips from a bag.  And it still tastes good like comfort food should!  In fact, it was such a big hit that some of us had three servings and we almost finished the entire 9×13″ dish in one sitting!  

 

You could personalize this recipe or make it seasonal by using any veggies that you have on hand.  I added the tomatoes because they were sitting on my counter (from our CSA) and the peas because it’s one of the kids’ favorite vegetables.  Make it your own by trying out a new veggie combination!

 

 

Veggie Tuna Noodle Casserole
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb noodles or your choice (elbow macaroni, bow-tie pasta, etc)
  2. ½ cup bread crumbs
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  4. 2 cups celery, chopped
  5. ½ cup onion, chopped
  6. 4 tablespoons butter
  7. ½ cup wheat flour
  8. 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  9. 2 cups milk
  10. 2 cups chicken broth
  11. 4 6-oz cans tuna, drained and broken into chunks
  12. 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  13. 2 cups frozen peas
Instructions
  1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse (to avoid sticking), and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter; set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F (if cooking right away).
  4. For sauce, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan (at least 3 quart-size) over medium heat. Sauté celery and onion until tender. Sprinkle flour and dry mustard on top of veggies, let sit for 30 seconds, and then stir into mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and slowly add milk and chicken broth while stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir constantly until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly.
  5. Grease a 9x13” casserole dish with butter. Combine noodles, tuna, fresh or frozen veggies, and sauce in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with bread crumb mixture.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and just starting to brown on top.
Notes
  1. I made this recipe gluten-free by substituting rice pasta for the noodles, oat flour for the flour, and using bread crumbs made with corn meal (although next time I would probably use the rice-based GF bread crumbs to stay consistent).
  2. Serves: 8 (normally!)
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/

 

back to school time

Back to School Time!

 

It’s that time of year again!  Our boys started school last week and so our school routines have been dragged out from the back of the closet along with the backpacks and lunch boxes.  Today I am sharing a few quick tips that help us survive the back to school madness and still eat healthy at the same time!

 

At the charter school where our boys attend school, there is no school cafeteria and so there are no options for buying lunch at school.  This is actually totally fine with us since we like to feed our kids healthy food and that is so much easier to do when the only option is what’s packed in your lunchbox that day!  We recognize that, eventually, our kids are going to grow up and make their own choices about what foods go into their body but, for now, we are going to enjoy the opportunity to choose what they eat during the school day!  

 

back to school - snack boxesEvery night before a school day, after cleaning up the dinner dishes, we work together in the kitchen to pack 3 snack boxes and 3 lunch boxes for the next day of school.  We love our metal snack boxes, which come with 4 small compartments.  We typically pack these sections with fruits, veggies, nuts, cheese, meat, or muffins.  We try our best to use seasonal and local ingredients wherever possible.  We also enlist the help of the kids to shop for and prepare these items so that they will be more likely to eat it when they find it in their snack box or lunch box!

 

 

 

back to school - lunch boxesWe also use metal lunch boxes and these have either 2 or 3 compartments each.  We usually pack dinner leftovers in one section of their lunch bin and fill the other side with more fruits and veggies.  If there are no leftovers from dinner, or if the dinner doesn’t lend itself well to a packed lunch, we might go with another option like meat and cheese rollups with crackers and hummus.  We also include a joke of the day written on a sticky note and attached to the top of their lunch bin.  This gives them something to look forward every day and hopefully makes them laugh 🙂

 

Packing the snacks and lunches the night before can make the school mornings so much less stressful for all of us.  We also love to use overnight breakfast options during the school year to make our mornings run more smoothly. 

 

And one last tip for calming the back-to-school craziness is to use the slow cooker as much as possible for making dinner!  I used slow cooker meals for 3 out of the first 4 days of school so that I could dedicate the after-school hours at home to my kids and I could be totally focused on them instead of in the kitchen preparing dinner. 

 

Here is a favorite slow cooker recipe in our house.  I hope that you love this recipe as much as we do and that you are all surviving back-to-school time in your house!

 

Slow Cooker Fish Chowder
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless flounder, cut into 1-inch pieces
  2. 2 cups tomatoes, diced (can be canned or fresh)
  3. 8 ounces clam juice
  4. ½ cup onion, chopped
  5. ½ cup celery, chopped
  6. ½ cup carrots, chopped
  7. ½ cup dry white wine (I usually use Chardonnay)
  8. ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  9. 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (or ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary)
  10. 1 teaspoon salt
  11. 1/3 cup light cream
  12. 3 tablespoons wheat flour
  13. 3 tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except cream, flour and butter in a slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.
  2. One hour before serving, combine cream, flour and butter. Stir into fish mixture. Continue to cook until soup is slightly thickened.
Notes
  1. Makes: 4 servings (this recipe can be doubled and still fit in a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker)
  2. This recipe can be made gluten- and/or dairy-free by skipping the last step of thickening the soup. The end result is more of a stew than a chowder but still delicious!
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/