gluten-free

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/

 

Slow Cooker Chili and Buckwheat Cornbread

Slow Cooker Chili and Buckwheat Cornbread

Even though we had a gorgeous 70°F day last week, today’s brisk temperatures and biting wind are reminding us that winter isn’t quite over yet.  This next week’s forecast shows temperatures hitting 70°F again one day and snow only two days later.  So while Winter and Spring battle it out, here is a winter menu to warm you up on the cold, blustery days like today. 

 

One of my favorite wintertime comfort foods is a hot bowl of hearty chili with a chunk of cornbread on the side.  Mmmm…..

 

I also love using the slow cooker any time of the year because it shifts the dinner prep time from evening to morning and generally takes the edge off of dinnertime.  That way I can relax a bit more and enjoy the kids when they get home from school instead of having to get started on chopping and cooking soon after they get off the bus. 

 

So it’s no surprise that my favorite chili recipe to make is a slow cooker chili recipe!  (Keep on scrolling for the recipe.)

 

I’ve tried several variations of a cornbread recipe to go with the chili and have landed on a Buckwheat Cornbread recipe that is gluten-free but still moist and with a hint of sweetness that all good cornbread should have.  AND it contains buckwheat, which is one of the more amazing foods that I have stumbled upon over the past few years. 

 

Despite what the name suggests, buckwheat does not contain gluten and is not related to wheat at all.  Buckwheat is in the same family as rhubarb and sorrel and the part we eat is actually the seed of the plant. You get buckwheat flour when you remove the hull and grind the seed. 

 

[Here’s a shopping tip: if possible, try to find “light” buckwheat flour when purchasing at the store because the “whole” buckwheat flour is made by grinding the buckwheat hull in with the flour, which adds a darker color similar to wheat flour but virtually no nutrients.  In effect, this dilutes the benefits of the buckwheat flour and you get less for your money.]

 

The list of benefits from buckwheat is seemingly endless.  When I pulled my various food reference books off the shelf to research the health benefits of buckwheat, I was amazed to read the long list of vitamins and minerals that are contained in buckwheat.  I knew that it was a healthy food but didn’t realize just how much it could be helping our bodies!  Read on to see what I’m talking about…

 

In addition to the benefit of being gluten-free, buckwheat is the best known grain source of high-quality protein, contains many essential amino acids, and is rich in iron, zinc (essential for maintaining a healthy immune system), copper (helps you get more restful sleep), selenium (an antioxidant that can help protect the lungs from free radicals and prevent asthma AND helps to alleviate feelings of depression), and magnesium (a mineral needed for proper energy metabolism).

 

Buckwheat contains two important flavonoids – quercetin and rutin – that have been shown to block the spread of cancer.  And the rutin also helps to prevent heart disease and is great for our overall cardiovascular health because it keeps our blood flowing properly and unobstructed.  And since buckwheat also contains vitamin E, the effects of these flavonoids are enhanced. 

 

Buckwheat reduces levels of damaging LDL cholesterol and lowers blood pressure

 

Buckwheat also helps to control diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels.  The carbohydrates in buckwheat are digested more slowly than other forms of carbohydrates, which causes blood sugar levels to rise more evenly.  This also leaves you feeling full longer, making it easier to eat less and control your weight

 

So, what’s not to love?  Check out the recipe below and try a little buckwheat love in your diet today!

 

 

Slow Cooker Chili
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound ground meat (beef, venison, or turkey)
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  5. 1 cup celery, chopped
  6. 2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked overnight and cooked (or 4 cups canned)
  7. 4 cups tomatoes, chopped
  8. 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  9. ½ Tablespoon honey
  10. ½ Tablespoon molasses
  11. 1 teaspoon salt
  12. 1 cup corn (frozen or canned is fine)
  13. 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  14. (optional variations to add heat: 1 minced fresh jalapeno pepper, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon hot sauce)
Instructions
  1. Brown meat in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes. Place everything in a slow cooker.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker and cook on high for 30 minutes and then on low for 8 hours. Serve with buckwheat cornbread.
Adapted from Simply in Season cookbook
Adapted from Simply in Season cookbook
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/
Buckwheat Cornbread
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups cornmeal
  2. 2 cups buckwheat flour
  3. 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  4. 2 teaspoons salt
  5. 4 eggs
  6. 1 cup coconut oil (melted) or applesauce
  7. 1 1/3 cup milk
  8. ¾ cup honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9x13” pan with butter or coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, buckwheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil or applesauce, milk, and honey.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until no dry spots appear (batter will be thin).
  5. Pour into prepared 9x13" pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/