Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bring on the casserole

There has been little cooking happening in the Not From a Box household in the past couple weeks. This is due to a combination of two factors: As a result of tightening my money belt, I've been eating at work a lot more (read: free food). I also started a new medication recently which has almost entirely eliminated my appetite.

Despite that, I still managed to whip up a vegetable noodle casserole last weekend — because when I'm not at work, I have to eat something, right? It has all the elements of a traditional tuna noodle casserole, which is one of my favorite comfort foods, with broccoli in place of the tuna.

I don't know when I started to make tuna noodle casserole. It wasn't something I grew up with, though I have a vague memory of maybe eating it for dinner as a child. The recipe is included in one of my favorite cookbooks from my college years: Clueless in the Kitchen, and I think that when I discovered how easy and how good this casserole was, I added it my repertoire of go-to dinner entrees. It's very similar to a meal I would whip up for kids when I was doing in-home child care: macaroni and cheese (from a box) with tuna and peas. Also a good go-to meal.

Tip: If you want to buy organic and by-pass the Campbell's condensed soup for this recipe, make sure you get an organic soup brand that's thick enough for the casserole so as not to make it too watery. I opted for the Whole Food's 365 brand, which is lovely because it's full of chunky pieces of mushrooms and carrots, but it's not condensed, so my casserole had a lot more liquid in it than I would have liked. I should have sprung for the Amy's brand (at a whole $1.50 more per can!).

Vegetable noodle casserole

2 c whole wheat noodles, like penne or rigatoni
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c frozen peas
1 c French fried onions (yes, from a can — you can also use 1 c bread crumbs mixed with a little olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook noodles until just done. Add broccoli in the last couple minutes to parboil. Drain.

In a casserole dish, combine noodles, broccoli, soup, and peas. Sprinkle fried onions or breadcrumbs over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly. (If the topping starts to burn, put a piece of aluminum foil over the top.)

Serves 2 or 3.

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