Friday, February 26, 2010

Tuna Casserole

I bought the Jan/Feb issue of Cooking Light magazine, I do that every now and then. There is usually something that grabs my eye in the lineup at the grocery store. First I am a sucker for food photography. I probably consume it like a 19 yr old male and a porn. Second and what promoted the purchase was an article featuring not one but two of my favorite cook book authors, Jamie Oliver and Mark Bittman. 

Once home I do a couple more flip throughs (about three) that is when I start dog ear-ring recipes and articles to go back to make and read. My flip throughs probably take a day or two to do and in that time my husband will get his hands on in it and will do the same. We generally read in tandem and sometimes over each others shoulders, so it is not a coincidence that we will be intrigued by the same recipe. This time it was a Tuna Casserole. People that know us will probably say "huh?". That's not really our style and maybe that's what initially attracted us to it.

Now, I like CL, it has very reader friendly recipes, good tips and suggestions and I like the Inspired Vegetarian section, but what bugs me (entering the realm of food politics here) is the use of light, low fat, diet alternatives. Really?! It is my personal belief (backed by some science) that whole foods as close to as how they were intended to be used are better for you. ie. Butter is butter is butter and Cheese should be cheese. And fat carries flavour, why get rid of the good ones and replace them with synthetic ones and or un-namable fillers such as the mysterious "milk product"? What we should be worried about are the designer foods, the ones that are created in laborites, factories, and facilities. With simulated flavouring, may contain, and exaggerated health claims- if it to good to be true, it usually is. CL also has a section where they re-make a popular recipe into something that is lighter, so with that in mind I re-made one of their recipes into something (in my opinion) healthier!** CL version in red.

Tuna Casserole
  • 8 oz wide egg noodles (or any type of pasta)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced * Not in the original recipe. I can't make anything with out garlic, so I added this ingredient.
  • 2 medium carrots diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced * Not in the original recipe. 
  • 2 tbsp all purposed unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk 2 3/4 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese 1/2 cup, 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup grated Padrano approximately 2 oz  *I used a micro plain grater so I get more volume and less weight, divided.
  • 1 cup thawed peas * I didn't have any- but they would have been good too, anything to get more veg into the the tots.
  • 1 (5 ounce) can whole albacore tuna, drained and flaked. * From a sustainable fishery, such as the pacific north west.
  • greased casserole dish.
Prepare onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Preheat broiler. Cook noodles as per package, rinse and drain set aside.

In a large sauce pan, add oil and cook veggies until they are soft and onion is translucent on a medium heat. Add salt and pepper, stir and then the 2 tbsp flour. Stir well and until it is slightly brown but not sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

Add in milk a little bit at a time so the flour does not clump, stir well, add more milk and then more. Increase heat slightly. Sauce should be thick and creamy. When all the milk is added, add in the cream cheese and Dijon mustard, stirring for 2 more minutes. 

Remove from heat, stir in half of the grated cheese, the tuna, (and the peas if you are using them). Transfer to the greased casserole dish, top with remaining cheese and bake under the broiler until lightly golden brown.

** Because I do not have dietary facilities here I can not tell you how much fat, calories etc are in my version, but what I can tell you is this. I used less milk, and tuna and by doing so probably reduced the amount of calories and fat naturally without using  low/non fat products. Really what is in 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, how do they get that consistency? Also by using whole food ingredients, my serving size was one scant cup, less then their recommended serving size of 1 1/3 cup. I thought we would go back for seconds but it turned out we didn't need to, we were full.

Sorry about the food politics and feel free to disagree, everyone has their own diet that works for them. I provided the Cooking Light amounts in red if you wish to try their method (their photo also looked yummy and was the catalyst of Tuna Casserole makeover. 

I still have not read the Jamie Oliver/Mark Bittman article.

photo by me.


  1. I'm there with you Megan - lite isn't always best. Then changes you made are likely ones I would have done too :) Your casserole looks really good, I'm going to have to make this soon, my hubby and daughter will feast I have no doubt!

  2. I do enjoy Cooking Light. I could read food/recipe magazines all day.

    You did a really nice job on your Tuna casserole.

    btw, I have the same food philosophy as you do. :-)

  3. oh this looks really good love tuna and pasta together

  4. I think there is something to eating real food and practicing moderation. I really like CL because their recipes are recipes that I can make every day. I so often am reading the fanciful gourmet books that I forget about everyday cooking.

    Cheers everyone, have a great week.

  5. This is lovely! I wish I have the patience to actually cook something like this.



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