Frugal Upstate ( http://www.frugalupstate.blogspot.com/ ) is hosting a weekly Frugal food series that seems especially helpful right now. Grocery prices have visibly gone up here in the Denver, CO area...horribly up. Most stuff seems to have had a 20% increase at least, making the stockpiling I've done of things like spaghetti sauce, soup, etc. become doubly valuable.
Oops. I digress. Frugal Upstate's theme this week is tuna, and I thought I'd mention my Do-It-Your-Way Tuna Casserole:
DIYW TUNA CASSEROLE
1 can tuna in spring water
1 can soup (mushroom or celery are the traditional favorites)
1 soup can milk
1 pound noodles
1 can (or pkg) peas
some kind of garnish
Cook the noodles; throw the peas in during, say, the last three minutes. Drain all. Drain tuna, then add it to the noodles/peas, along with the soup and milk. Let this mixture heat on the stove top for a few minutes, and serve -- OR top with a garnish, like potato chips, bread crumbs and let bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serves 4 generously -- or up to 6 with side dishes.
Now here's the fun part. This casserole LOVES substitutions! It's also a great way to get rid of bits and pieces, dribs and drabs from previous meals.
The tuna is pretty basic. You can also use a small can of boned chicken; leftover cubed chicken; leftover cubed pork; small cans of seafood, like crab or shrimp. The only meat item I have not translate successfully is beef -- otherwise, the sky's the limit. Or scrap the meat altogether, and add a cup or two of a heftier vegetable, like zucchini or squash, sliced or chopped bite-sized.
The soup can change to any kind of cream-based one you want. Or use that scraping of chicken noodle soup leftover from lunch! A few spoonfuls of clam chowder are great. Cheese soup is wonderful -- or use that leftover cheese or salsa dip!
Or don't use soup at all. Make up a basic white sauce, or substitute sour cream. Salad dressing substitutes well here -- ranch dressing, yum! (Use it instead of milk to thin the soup.)
The milk can change to sour cream. Or cottage cheese. Or water. (The latter isn't my favorite, but it will work.) Dry milk mixed with water works just fine. For a different taste, try salsa or tomato sauce.
The noodles can change to spaghetti, any kind of pasta -- or rice. Just cook them before you mix everything together.
The peas can change to any kind of veggie you wish, from carrots to broccoli, spinach to red peppers. Just chop it into bite-sized pieces and add just before the noodles/pasta/rice are done cooking. Or mix in a few tablespoons of that leftover salad. (Yes, green salad! Looks like spinach.) I also like to add a few teaspoons of chopped herbs, like chives, dill, thyme or marjoram.
The garnish can be any leftover dried bread. Or crackers. Or leftover cereal. Or corn chips. Or smashed pretzels. Just make sure it's on the 'salty' side -- not sweet. About 1/4 cup should do it.
See? Whatever you've got -- it will work. And it's fast, too -- your total prep time, including waiting for the noodles/rice/whatever to cook, can be less than 30 min. I keep a few cans of tuna in the pantry, just in case Dave gets a yen for this casserole.