My youngest son & me

My youngest son & me

About me

Hi!
My name is Tanja (Sater) Miller and I'm excited about sharing my journey of converting my favorite recipes to gluten free! I am not a fancy cook - I prefer just a casual, fun meal. I am married with grown children (and have small grandchildren) & 3 dogs. I work full time as a registered nurse & I am a geek. Yes, I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Fringe, Firefly, Farscape and most of the other Scify shows. You will probably see a little of my geek side come out once in a while! Please join me on my journey of cooking, baking & converting every day recipes into yummy gluten free meals that everyone can enjoy (not just those with a gluten allergy!) Don't be shy about checking out my recipes....I have the gluten free version along with the regular recipe that I adapted from!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gluten Free Tuna Casserole

Gluten Free Tuna Casserole. There is something about fall and winter that make us all crave the comfort of a warm casserole. My husband really likes the basic tuna casserole so I pretty much stick with that. I used to make mine with the convenience of canned cream soup but since most all of them contain wheat flour as a thickener....I don't have that option any more. The canned gluten free cream soups are currently expensive and not all the stores carry them so I just make my own which is actually very easy and very economical! I have a couple of different recipes for "cream soup" and they all work just fine in casserole recipes. The thing I like about making a "cream" soup is that it is very forgiving and you can substitute broth or bouillon flavors for different recipes. Sometimes I like to add a dab of cream cheese to the cream soup or a splash of heavy cream for a richer flavor but you don't have to do that! I used a homemade cream of mushroom" soup for today's tuna casserole but you can make it into a cream of celery soup, cream of chicken soup or cream of onion soup instead. Be creative with what you have in your pantry! Just for the record...I improvised last time I made tuna casserole. I was in a hurry, didn't have time to make a cream soup so I looked in my cupboard to see what I had on hand. I spotted my husband's can of Progresso clam chowder which is gluten free....and I used it in place of the traditional cream soup. It worked just fine. It does have tiny cut potatoes in it but no one seemed to mind. Now I keep a can of it on hand....just in case! I was brought up with the following quote: "A good cook can follow a recipe but a great cook can improvise with the ingredients they have in their cupboard". 

It is now becoming easier to find gluten free noodles at just about any grocery store now so casseroles are coming back into our life again! I was so happy to see that Ronzoni and Barilla pasta are both now offering gluten free noodles which are on the grocery shelf right next to the regular pasta. The price is reasonable and it is very convenient to be able to just walk in and pick up a box of GF no matter what state you are in. It makes it easier to travel with a gluten allergy!  I was able to find the Ronzoni GF noodles for under $1.49 at Military Commissary, Fry's and Basha's had them for under $2.50 per box). I was happy to find that Smith's grocery store in New Mexico carried Barilla GF noodles. I sometimes feel a little anxious traveling because I hate to drag a suitcase of food with me but I don't want to get stuck without GF foods available!  Don't worry....I don't get paid for advertising so I can just give you my honest opinions on brands and where to find them! I do know that most grocery stores only order/stock what is in demand so if you aren't finding something you are looking for....ask the store manager to special order it. Most of them will at no extra charge to you. I was pleasantly surprised that my local Super Target store and Albertson's both carry a huge selection of GF items and they will special order items that are requested. (My favorite store to shop for GF items with helpful managers that are great about ordering specialty items is the Super Target store on Lake Pleasant in north Peoria, Arizona! I also like shopping at my local Trader Joe's store because they carry a lot of GF items and it's just a fun little place to shop! My grand-daughter loves to push the little grocery carts they have!)

Tuna Casserole Recipe:
  • 12 oz. gluten free noodles (I used Ronzoni brand today)
  • 1 recipe of homemade gluten free cream soup (or one 10-12 oz. can of gf cream soup or gluten free clam chowder (18.5 oz) or use my homemade recipe below)
  • 3 cans or packets of tuna, drained (more if you like extra tuna. I used tuna packed in water )
  • 1 cup of frozen peas, optional (I used petite peas without any seasonings on them)
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot, optional (I use this mainly for a little color. The tiny bit of carrot doesn't really add any flavor to the casserole. I think it just adds some color to a bland looking casserole! I am all about presentation. I see food with my eyes. If it looks bland...it isn't quite as appetizing to me! You can leave this out if you don't have any or just don't like carrots!)
  • 2 tbs. chopped onion, optional (you can add fresh, frozen or dried)
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic (I used fresh garlic today but you can use dried, minced garlic or garlic in a jar. I do like using fresh garlic when possible but sometimes when garlic isn't the main feature in the recipe...I cheat and use the minced in a jar! Sometimes the difference between making a decent meal depends on how much time you have to do it. I cut corners when I am in a time crunch! It's okay to do that...it still beats a box of preservative filled dinners!)
If preparing your cream soup from scratch then I start making it while I put the water on to boil for the noodles. (Recipe below for cream soup). If you are using a canned cream soup or clam chowder then just start off by boiling the noodles. Boil your noodles and drain them. With the Ronzoni brand noodles I have noticed they stay a little firmer so I cook them a smidge longer than regular noodles. Just don't stir them too much or they will start falling apart. I wait to mix them in last with minimum trauma! I do add a splash of heavy cream, half & half creamer or 2 tbs. of cream cheese if I use a can of clam chowder. It adds a little more flavor to the canned soup. 

Shred carrot until you get about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of carrot. (Or you can buy the pre-shredded carrots if you are using them for something else later in the week...like soup! Sometimes when I find the larger bag of pre-shredded carrots for around $1 it just isn't worth my time and mess shredding carrots if I am going to be using them for soup, salad or another casserole later in the week! I know buying shredded carrots sounds frivolous to some people but if I have been working all day on my feet then the extra few minutes I can shave off my dinner preparation time is worth the extra $1 to me!) I put the shredded carrots, garlic & onion in the microwave for a about 1-2 minutes or until slightly tender but still firm. Or you can "blanche" them by putting them in the hot noodle water for a minute. This just keeps them from being crunchy in the tuna casserole since we aren't really going to bake it long. Actually, you don't even have to bake it at all since everything is already cooked. Gently combine all the ingredients together. I just add my frozen peas to the colander when I drain my noodles. This will thaw them right away without making them mushy. Don't over mix it or your noodles may start falling apart. I like to put mine in a greased casserole dish and sprinkle crushed potato chips or a handful of potato sticks on top and bake it in 350 degree oven for 15/20 minutes but you don't have to do that. (I like to add potato chips or potato sticks on the top of the casserole just like my mom did. The potato chips or potato sticks add a nice salty crunch. I know it is probably a hill billy thing...but I like it and that's the way we make it at our house! If you prefer topping it with GF bread crumbs mixed with a dab of melted butter....feel free to do that instead!) You can just mix it all together and serve it from the pot without putting it into the oven. Everything is already cooked. (Let's face it....Betty Crocker Tuna Helper isn't baked! It just gets served right from the pot! You don't need to add any bread crumbs or potato chips! It's a personal preference!)





Homemade Cream Soup Recipe:
  • 2 cups broth (or water + gluten free bouillon) or milk (If you are using gluten free bouillon then add 2 cubes or 2 tbs. bouillon. I used Better than bouillon mushroom flavor base in today's recipe. I actually used 1 cup milk + 1 cup water + 2 tbs. bouillon. I like the flavor of milk added but if you have a milk allergy or don't have any milk available....water + bouillon or broth will work fine. You can add any flavor bouillon or broth you want or you can just use milk with some sauteed onions, garlic and salt instead). I have a friend that uses all the tuna water mixed with onion, garlic and additional water to make 2 cups. Like I said before....this recipe is very flexible
  • 1/4 cup gluten free flour or corn starch or tapioca starch
  • You can add a small can of chopped mushrooms if desired or chopped celery or onions (which I saute or microwave until soft because you don't want crunchy pieces in your casserole!)
Heat the broth, water or milk until it gets warm. Add the gluten free flour or starch and whisk until smooth. (A hill billy secret...I take an empty jar with a screw on lid (like an empty jelly jar or pickle jar) and mix a tiny bit of warm water with the flour or starch and shake it until smooth and not lumpy. I find this MUCH easier than trying to whisk out all the lumps!) Mix it into the warm broth or milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and add any extras you want like the mushrooms, cooked onions and/or celery. You can also add additional spices if you prefer. Taste the soup. If it tastes a little bland then just add a tablespoon of cream cheese, butter, cream, shredded cheese or spices to get the flavor you are looking for. Customize it for your personal taste. Now it is ready to stir into your casserole or other recipe! If you are finding that the cream soup is too thick...add a smidge of water or additional broth. If you think it is a little too runny then add something to make it slightly thicker...additional flour/starch or heavy cream or creamed cheese. 

Note: In a pinch...I have used canned evaporated milk mixed with water to get 2 cups of liquid, I have also used 1/3 cup of powdered milk + water to = 2 cups of liquid. You can also substitute almond milk, coconut milk or a Lactose free milk if you want the flavor of milk in your cream soup but have dairy allergies. 

For a Deluxe version of Tuna Casserole: Try adding a small package of frozen very tiny salad shrimp (they are generally inexpensive and precooked. Just run them under warm water to thaw them quickly!) and/or a little bit of canned or frozen (pre-cooked) crab meat or scallops. I also LOVE to add about 1 cup of Loganstino Lobster tails which I can find seasonally at my local Trader Joe's store. This seems a little more gourmet than plain tuna casserole if you need something quick or if you have a houseful of guests and want to impress them with something a little fancier than basic tuna casserole. We went to a fancy restaurant on vacation years ago in Florida and they had a recipe similar to this Deluxe Tuna Casserole. It had little shrimps and tiny scallops mixed in with the tuna. It had a rich sauce that was probably made with some heavy cream added. Boy....it was delicious and it was one of their top sellers. They served it with seasoned bread crumbs on top & a side of garlic bread. ( I duplicated the recipe when I got home....WOW....my guests loved it! (I admit that I splurge on the calories and add a hefty splash of heavy cream when I make it!) I now make mine with finely crushed potato chips OR GF bread crumbs on top to keep it gluten free! (I have also added some left over chopped salmon or a mild white fish to the deluxe tuna casserole if I have some that needs used up! It's a great way to "recycle" leftovers!) I will say that the deluxe tuna casserole tastes great paired with a good wine!

Up close view of Basic Tuna Casserole

basic Tuna Casserole


I hope you enjoyed my recipe for a gluten free tuna casserole that is VERY FLEXIBLE with the ingredients. You can easily customize it to your flavor preference or allergy restrictions by tweaking the ingredients. Of course, if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular noodles and regular soup! I will add photos when I make the deluxe tuna casserole recipe at a future date.


Tanja
Gluten Free Casually




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