Happiness Project #37: Baked Tuna Casserole!

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Whoa! Another Dinner Dish?! All in the same month?! Why, yes! Yes, indeed, my friends! This Mama’s on a mission! To bring some dinner to the table! And highchair. And possibly, a dog dish, as well. Though, not ALWAYS to the dog’s dish, mind you. And since, I really, REALLY like the idea of all-in-one Casserole’s for my family, I went scouring the internet and Pinterest for my next (hopefully rather) easy dinner dish. Now before you go on judging me, I am NOT ashamed to admit to being somewhat of a Pinterest nerd either. So there! Enter, the simplest version of a Tuna Casserole Recipe I could set my eyes upon. With peas. Again. Yes, we really like our peas in this house. I chalk it up to how small & Toddler friendly they are. Though, next time I may add in some fresh Broccoli too, since I didn’t happen to have any of America’s favorite veggie tree on hand last night.

Hmmm, speaking of last night, which was the 4th of July here in my neck of the woods (or more accurately, city), my kitchen ended up becoming a bit…crowded. By my very scared and horribly trembling Beagle/Terrier Canine Child, Chloe Girl. For SIX hours! SIX hours worth of loud, booming, the-sky-is-very-likely-falling neighborhood fireworks. Which I was NOT happy about it. At all. Yes, I understand that everyone wants to eat, drink and launch very pretty sparklies. But for SIX hours?? At the expense of everyone else around them, who might (just might) have sleepy babies and nervous dogs?? Until 2am?? Apparently. Like I said, by 11pm last night, I was NOT pleased. And had a very terrified Chloe Girl huddled up in the kitchen corner, pressed up against my legs. Which made using the stove a little crowded.

Anyhow, even though I was understandably half distracted by comforting my Chloe Girl as well as tinkering with this particular recipe, all while convincing myself NOT to run out into the street, welding a large knife (because I was THAT enraged by all of those inconsiderate neighbors of mine), I did eventually manage to get this Casserole in the oven. Hallelujah. Which, even today, is still being very happily consumed. So to all of my fellow Mommy & Daddy friends out there, with too much to do in the day and not enough free time spent in the kitchen, this easy, relatively all-in-one recipe might be exactly what you’re looking for! Well, besides more sleep, that is. *wink*

Pinch of kosher salt

2-1/2 cups elbow macaroni pasta

1 cup breadcrumbs (my husband prefers Panko breadcrumb so we nearly always have a couple of boxes of this laying around)

5 to 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons (reserved) fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups whole milk

3 (6 oz) cans solid light tuna, packed in water, drained and fluffed with fingertips

1-1/2 cup frozen peas or 1 cup broccoli, thawed

Once all of the ingredients are gathered and prepped, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to it’s packaged instructions. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

In another small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, until just coated.

In a medium sized pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add in the flour and whisk to combine with the olive oil. Once combined, slowly add in the broth, followed by the milk. Whisking continuously, bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, stirring every minute or so, until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Stir in the the pasta, tuna and peas, until fully, evenly coated.

Spoon out your casserole mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish and top with the lemon tossed breadcrumb mixture. Slid this on into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the crust on top is lightly browned and bubbling.

Transfer to a wire rack before sprinkling the reserved 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over the crust. Let cool for a good 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Such a lovely, easy Dinner Dish. Perfect for any last-minute occasion. Happy Cooking, my friends!

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Happiness Project #36: Baked Tuna & Veggie Mac and Cheese!

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3 months later & I’m FINALLY back blogging! Not because I haven’t wanted to be baking & blogging these past 3 months (because I HAVE actually been baking) but mostly because being a semi-active Mom, battling her way through a whole whirlwind of physical struggles, in light of having a wonderfully SUPER active 15mo Toddler, doesn’t leave me much energy or time to blog as well. Even during the two days a week where I DON’T have my Mischief Maker with me. So in lieu of (very normal) Toddler tantrums and the decision to decline ever single event invitation we were invited to this month (once again, my apologizes to those who so graciously invited us to such lovely summer events), I’m finally making the time to do some much needed catch up. With a very messy kitchen paying the ultimate price.

So what HAVE I been up to these past very blog-free months, you ask? Why, Peanut Butter Brownies, Cinnamon Roll Mini Cakes as well as a very special Flower Garnished Vanilla & Lemon Celebration Cake, to tease you with just a few. None of which I’ll be sharing today. Shocking, I know. Though yes, the aforementioned recipes will be blogged very soon, I promise. Right now, though, I’d like to share a very NEW & EXCITING kitchen adventure with you! A DINNER adventure! Yes. Dinner. Something that I just DON’T do. Until now. Which is kinda a big deal for me, especially as a wife and mother. Instead of those oh-so predictable spoonfuls of sugar or cake flour or chocolate, this lovely dinner dish demanded cheese and noodles and tuna. Which I very happily, though a bit nervously, obliged to. And WOW, was this one of the best Mac and Cheese dishes I have EVER wrapped my stomach around! It’s THAT good! Thanks to my lovely blogging friend, Kelsey, over at her fabulous lifestyle blog, Oddly Lovely. Which you should browse through. Now. Or at the earliest connivence. There’s a blog post there for just about any subject that you could ever be (or want to be) into! Especially if you’ve never met her Dog, Ru, yet. Trust me. You’ll want to. Anyhow, after repeatedly eyeballing Kelsey’s very delicious looking Baked and Breaded Mac and Cheese Recipe, I (quite literally) dragged & pushed myself out of my usual kitchen comfort zone and did it. One of my very first home-made Dinner Dishes. Which was WONDERFUL! Cheesy, but not TOO cheesy. Delicate but hearty at the same time. With the perfect amount of surprising crunch, thanks to those well-needed breadcrumbs. And even though I threw in some frozen peas, white tuna and a teeny bit of lemon juice, this Baked Mac and Cheese Dish was perfect, all on it’s own. So with much (MUCH) delight, here it is!

Bake Tuna & Veggie Mac and Cheese:

8 ounces of macaroni (I used Rotini pasta because I have this thing for the cuteness of curls)

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)

black pepper to taste (a pinch)

1-1/2 cups reduced or low fat milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2-1/2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar

2/3 cups bread crumbs

*1 cup frozen peas

*9 oz can of tuna, drained

*2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent the pasta from further cooking. Set aside.

Over a large skillet, set to medium-high heat, add and melt the butter, stirring so that it doesn’t brown. Once melted, add in the flour, salt and pepper. Mix with the butter until it reaches a nice & smooth consistency.

Gradually add the milk and heavy whipping cream into the saucepan, consistently stirring over the course of roughly 5 minutes. While stirring, bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to mediuim-low and cook for 10 minutes, still stirring to prevent the mixture from hardening. Now gradually add in the the shredded cheese, in small handfuls, mixing and waiting until each handful is melted before adding another. Once melted, turn off the burner. Pour in the cooked macaroni and stir throughly to create an even coating. Once you’re happy with your now fully coated macaroon, add in (first) the drained tuna, and then the frozen peas. Mix each addition well within the cheesy macaroni. Pour your macaroni mixture into a lightly buttered (or sprayed) 9×11 baking dish. Using a tablespoon, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice evenly over the entire dish. Followed by a sprinkling of breadcrumbs to finish the dish up. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the breadcrumb topping becomes slightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, on a wire rack, before digging in. Even though you might be chomping at the bit as soon as this yummy loveliness comes out of the oven, never fear. A few minutes won’t hurt anyone. Especially if you have a Toddler (or wiggly dog) underfoot. Trust me.

For explore all of Kelsey’s lifestyle adventures, go to her blog, at the oddlylovely.com

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