Broccoli-Tuna Casserole

There is something to be said for recipes that contain five or fewer ingredients. For one thing, they’re usually supereasy. Another is that they’re perfect when you are in a hurry.

And, of course, the fewer the ingredients the better chance that you will have everything you need on hand.

In these times, when both parents often have day jobs and dinner can be a rush job, the following recipe — which I fixed the other night and was extremely happy with — is both quick and easy as well as tasty.

Broccoli-Tuna Casserole
2½ cups penne pasta (can substitute elbow macaroni)
1 5-ounce can tuna, flaked, in water
2 cups broccoli, chopped
¼ cup cream cheese
1 10½-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
Boil water and cook pasta. When pasta is almost done, add in broccoli and cook until both are soft. Drain.
Put back into pot, add in tuna, soup, and cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese is melted, on medium heat.
Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 408.5 calories, 11.7 grams fat (4.3 grams saturated), 25.6 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams sugars, 598 milligrams sodium, 57.6 grams carbohydrates, 3.2 grams dietary fiber, 17.8 grams protein.

Tuscan Tuna Sandwich

There’s not a much better time to make a sandwich than during the summer. And it’s usually pretty easy to come up with fresh ideas for sandwiches during the summer, too, since garden fare is at its peak.

And now is a perfect time to start experimenting, with it being National Sandwich Month.

Take a step beyond your basic ham and cheese with the following recipe for this tuna sandwich (courtesy of Spice Islands), which combines the sweet, mild flavor of dill with the savory flavor of garlic and tosses tuna, capers and fresh greens in a balsamic vinaigrette for a flavor combination that goes beyond your everyday sandwich.

Tuscan Tuna Sandwich
1 6- to 7-ounce can or pouch of  tuna, packed in water
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 ounces fresh baby salad greens
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
8 slices Italian style bread, grilled or toasted
Place tuna, capers, dill weed and garlic powder in a mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add greens and vinaigrette; toss gently.
Divide tuna mixture evenly on 4 slices of bread; top with remaining slices. Serve immediately.

Tuna and Pasta — A Tasty Combo

I like the versatility of canned tuna. It’s one of those foods that I always buy when there’s a sale at the supermarket. I can never have too many cans on the pantry shelf.

One of my favorite things to do with a can of tuna is to mix it with some Miracle Whip, put it on saltine crackers and top it with a slice or two of sweet (bread and butter) pickles. I’ve been doing this since my college days at Bemidji State. I remember coming home in the afternoon after class and having a snack of tuna, crackers and pickles while watching “The Little Rascals” or “The Three Stooges.”

Another dish that I like to make is tuna casserole. Just this past week, I made one for supper. The recipe I follow is my own creation. It calls for a couple of 7-ounce cans of tuna along with a can of cream of mushroom soup, a 4-ounce can of sliced mushrooms, a diced onion, two stalks of diced celery, a tablespoon or two of Miracle Whip and salt and pepper to taste. And, of course, some pasta.

Canned tuna and pasta is a good pairing. The following recipe combines the two. The tuna topping is chunky and colorful when combined with roasted red bell pepper. It’s tossed with nutty whole-wheat or farro pasta. The recipe is courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research (www.

Spaghetti with Mediterranean Tuna
1 medium red bell pepper, halved and seeded (or use jarred roasted pepper)
1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-preserved
1 7-ounce can solid light tuna in olive oil, well-drained
1 lemon, preferably organic
½ cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti, broken into thirds, or whole-wheat corkscrew shaped pasta
If roasting pepper place rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees degrees.
Line baking sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray. Place pepper on baking sheet cut-side down, and roast on top rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until skin blisters and is black in places. Transfer pepper halves to small bowl, cover with plate or plastic wrap, and steam for 20 minutes. When pepper is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to pull off skin.
Finely chop pepper and set aside.
Rinse capers, place in small bowl and cover with cool water. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse capers well and pat dry on paper towel. Chop capers, and set aside.
Boil large pot of water for pasta.
Place drained tuna in medium-size mixing bowl, and using a fork, flake it. Add capers, and roasted pepper. Zest lemon and set zest aside. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from lemon and add to tuna. Save remaining lemon for another use. Mix parsley into tuna. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour additional boiling water into large mixing bowl. Set bowl with tuna mixture into larger bowl to warm it and help flavors to meld while pasta cooks, stirring sauce occasionally. Let sit for up to 30 minutes.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of cooking water. Divide pasta among 4 wide, shallow bowls and moisten with 2 tablespoons of cooking water. Top each serving with one-fourth of tuna mixture. Sprinkle zest over tuna, and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 302 calories, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 46 grams carbohydrates,
22 grams protein, 1 gram dietary fiber, 267 milligrams sodium.

Cold Tuna Pasta Salad

Food contests are fun. This weekend, I’m going to help judge the Second Annual McBake-Off Challenge that is part of McVille Days in McVille, N.D. ( It should be a lot of fun.

But that’s not the only one I’m taking part in. At home, we have a gallon container of Miracle Whip that was leftover from a recent food event, so Therese and I are having a contest to see if we can use it in one meal per day.

So far, I’m getting my butt kicked. I’ve only made homemade tartar sauce that we had with some broiled wild-caught halibut fillets. (Tartar sauce contains two parts Miracle Whip, two parts mayonnaise, a little salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder, some bread and butter pickles, chopped up, and pickle and lemon juice.)

That said, Therese has used Miracle Whip three times — on chicken sandwiches, in a tasty coleslaw that also contained sweet red bell pepper and a part of an apple and finally in a yummy cold tuna pasta salad, just like her mom and my mom used to make.

Cold tuna pasta salad has always been one of my favorites. It’s relatively easy to make and is an excellent side at summer gatherings. Here is Therese’s recipe, if you care to try it.

Cold Tuna Pasta Salad
1½ cups of uncooked macaroni, cooked and then cooled in with cold water
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped fine
½ bag of frozen peas, cooked and cooled
2 stalks of celery,chopped fine
2 cans of tuna, drained
Mixed all the ingredients with at least 1 cup Miracle Whip, a teaspoon of salt, some pepper to taste, a few tablespoons of pickle juice and a chopped-up dill pickle. (If it needs more Miracle Whip, add it a bit at a time.
Refrigerate for a few hours, so everything cools off and ingredients blend. Serve with potato chips on the side or crushed and put on top of salad.
Note: If you wanted smaller portions, just cut back on everything a bit. It keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Comforting Casserole

One of the nice things about going somewhere is coming home.

When I go out hunting in the fall, it’s nice to walk into a house that’s filled with aromatic smells emanating from the the kitchen. More often than not, Therese fixes a nice supper so that when I’m done unloading the dogs, guns and clothes, we can sit down to a tasty meal. (I usually call on the way back to let Therese know when to expect me.)

One of my favorites is her hamburger hotdish or casserole. It’s fairly simple — a pound of ground meat, a little diced onion, some canned green beans and tomato soup. It also happens to be one of my grandkids’ favorite meals.

Just the other day, I decided to return the favor. Therese was gone for a few days to Cincinnati, visiting relatives, so I decided to fix something on her return. My choice was tuna casserole, which I consider comfort food. It wasn’t anything elaborate, just a couple of can of tuna (drained), onion (diced), a can of cream of mushroom soup and a little seasoning.

I’ve always loved tuna casserole. It was one of my favorites as a kid. We had it often on Friday for school lunch. Back then, Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays, so it was a natural. Along with fish sticks, it was a mainstay.

Whenever I’ve made tuna casserole, it’s never been the same twice. I always do something a little different, but the main ingredients are the same.

Like I said, tuna casserole is a comfort food for me as well as Therese. I bet in the wintertime, we have it at least three or four times. So, I’m always looking for new recipes. Here is one that looks pretty good, which I hope to try in the near future.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick (4 cups)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce can tuna in olive oil, drained
6 ounces dried curly egg noodles (Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3¼ cups)
1½ cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices white bread)
4 ounces coarsely grated cheddar (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in 1½ tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then saute until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Cook noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish, spreading evenly.
Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Fishin’ For A Sandwich

The other day, some of the guys at exercise were teasing Vern Straus about his choice for breakfast.

It seems Vern likes to have a fish sandwich every once in a while when he and his buddies head out to the truck stop after pumping a few weights on Friday mornings.

I’ve never thought about having a fish sandwich for breakfast, but they do pique my interest every once in while, especially if we have some leftover walleye or panfish filets. Warmed up on a bun or a couple of slices of homemade bread and slathered with some tartar sauce, they make an excellent lunch. (I hear the crappie bite is on over at Maple Lake near Mentor, Minn.)

I realize that not everyone is an angler, so having freshly caught fish isn’t an option. But these days, you needn’t look any farther than your local supermarket for some nice filets. You can find just about anything you want.

Since fish fits nicely into spring menus (we already have had salmon several times), I’ve been looking over the selections quite a bit lately. What’s caught my eye most recently have been the tuna filets. I really enjoy tuna on on the Foreman Grill and have been looking for some new recipes.

And it appears that I’m in luck. The tuna club recipe I discovered today looks like a keeper. The sandwich is made with sourdough bread, which is a favorite of mine. But what really sold me on the recipe was the basil mayonnaise, which contains pesto and sour cream.

I might even try it for breakfast.

Fresh Tuna Club
4 6-ounce portions fresh tuna
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
12 slices sourdough bread
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons pure olive oil or canola oil
2 cups arugula
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons basil mayonnaise (see recipe below)
Season tuna with salt and pepper. Brush bread with softened butter and sprinkle with Parmesan. Toast bread in oven under broiler, remove and hold warm. Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Place tuna in pan and sear about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. This should produce a medium rare piece of tuna; simply increase cooking time for a different doneness. Assemble sandwich in the following manner: 1 slice bread topped with arugula and two slices tomato; drizzle with small amount of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with another slice of bread. Brush with basil mayonnaise. Top with two slices tomato and piece of tuna. Top with third slice bread.
To make basil mayonnaise: Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup sour cream and 1 tablespoon pesto. Season to taste with salt. Store in refrigerator.


Go Nuts — With Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebabs

Using a stove-top grill such as the Foreman is one real easy way to cook.

Just the other night, I fixed a couple of salmon filets that had been briefly marinated in a little soy sauce and white wine along with some sea salt and minced garlic and ginger. Along with steamed broccoli, half a baked potato and a nice salad, it was a tasty and nutritious meal.

I’ve come across another stove-top recipe that looks pretty awesome, this one for Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebabs. And a study that recently came to my attention makes this recipe look quite nutritious as well.

Research at Loma Linda University in California just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compares the effects of walnuts and fatty fish in the fight against heart disease, demonstrating that in healthy individuals, walnuts lower cholesterol more than fish, while fatty fish lower triglycerides. Both can reduce the overall risk of coronary heart disease. (To access the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition manuscript reference doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736S on the Internet)

What this means in practical terms is that eating an easy-to-incorporate amount of walnuts and fatty fish can cause meaningful decreases in blood cholesterol and triglycerides even in healthy individuals, according to the study’s lead author, Sujatha Rajaram, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

Specifically, following the qualified health claim issued by the Food and Drug Administration, researchers found that incorporating approximately 1.5 ounces of walnuts (42 grams, a handful of whole nuts or about 3 tablespoons of chopped nuts) into the daily diet lowered serum total cholesterol by 5.4 percent and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9.3 percent compared to a control diet based on U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations.

And using American Heart Association guidelines, the researchers also found that a diet including two servings of fatty fish per week (roughly 4 ounces each as recommended by the AHA for individuals without heart disease) decreased triglyceride levels by 11.4 percent. Additionally, it increased HDL (good) cholesterol by 4 percent, but also slightly increased LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to the control diet. (Omega 3 oils are found primarily in cold-water fatty fish such as fresh tuna, mackerel, herring and salmon. Some say omega 3 is to the brain what protein is to muscles and calcium is to bones.)

Dr. Rajaram added, “Individuals should strive to include a plant source of omega-3 fat in their diet, like walnuts, and also a marine source of omega-3 fat.”

Here is the recipe for the Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebab. Serve it with Onion-Pepper Rice.

Go nuts!

Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebabs
¾ pound tuna steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup low-sugar apricot jam or jelly
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1 medium zucchini cut into ½-inch slices (about 2 cups)
8 grape or cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the stove-top grill or broiler. Mix the jam and walnuts in a bowl. Add the tuna cubes, mixing to coat. Thread tuna on 2 skewers. Thread zucchini alternately with tomatoes on 2 other skewers. With stove-top grill, cook 5 minutes, then turn and cook 2 more minutes. With broiler, cook on a foiled-lined baking sheet 5 inches from the heat for the same amount of time. (Reduce time by 1 minute per side for rare tuna.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 383 calories (17 percent from fat), 7.2 grams fat (1 gram saturated, 1.1 gram monounsaturated), 78 milligrams cholesterol, 44.2 grams protein, 37.7 grams carbohydrates, 4.4 grams fiber, 96 milligrams sodium.
Onion-Pepper Rice
½ cup frozen chopped onion
½ cup frozen chopped green pepper
1 8-ounce package microwave brown rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place onion and green pepper in a bowl; microwave on high 1 minute to defrost; set aside. Microwave rice according to package instructions (60 to 90 seconds for most brands). Stir into the onion and rice, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 192 calories (15 percent from fat), 3.1 grams fat (0.4 grams saturated, 0.8 grams monounsaturated), no cholesterol, 4.5 grams protein, 37.2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 6 milligrams sodium.