Thursday, February 21, 2013

Zesty Low-Carb Tuna Casserole

Creamy, hearty tuna casserole is a popular comfort food that's easy to make and that even the pickiest kids will tend to like.

Virtually all tuna casserole recipes include noodles, pasta, rice or some other carbohydrate, however, and that may present a problem for people on low-carb or sugar-restricted diets. Many of those traditional recipes also call for canned soup such as cream of mushroom, which tends to be loaded with carbohydrates plus a large amount of sodium.

My low-carb tuna casserole does not require the usual pasta, noodles or rice, nor does it use canned soup. And the very small amount of fine dry bread crumbs called for could be eliminated or replaced with wheat germ if you prefer. Using a robustly flavored cheese like Parmigiano or Asiago means you won't have to add much salt - in fact, I don't add any.  You control how zesty or spicy to make this recipe by deciding whether to use one or two hot peppers, which variety of pepper to use, or even by replacing the hot peppers with sweet mild mini-peppers or half of a bell pepper. Don't like one of the herbs listed? Substitute a different dried herb. In sum, my recipe is healthier than most, adjustable to your tastes, and easy to make.

3 eggs
1 cup milk (I use skim)
1 Tbs dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried ground savory
1/2 tsp dried basil plus a little more for topping
1 cup shredded hard cheese (I use a mix of Parmesan & Asiago)
1 small yellow squash or zucchini, trimmed & thinly sliced (I like to slice lengthwise)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 hot chili peppers, seeded & minced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup peas
2 cans (5 to 7 oz each) tuna, drained & flaked (I like Albacore)
2 or 3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Optional: 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cracker meal
Optional: Salt & ground black pepper to taste (I omit)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a rectangular casserole or large baking dish. Line the bottom with one layer of sliced squash, overlapping if necessary to cover the bottom (if you end up with leftover sliced squash, simply store in the refrigerator for another use).

Whisk together the eggs, milk & herbs (and salt & pepper if using) in a bowl, then stir in most of the cheese, reserving about 1/4 cup.

In a large bowl combine the celery, garlic, peppers, onion, peas and tuna. Fold in the egg mixture and gently stir to combine thoroughly -- a large wooden spoon or silicone spatula works well for this.

Spoon the mixture evenly over the layered squash, sprinkle with the bread crumbs (if using) and the reserved shredded cheese, then arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on top. Dust with a little bit of dried basil. 

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 75 minutes or until the cheese is lightly golden. Remove from oven, let sit a couple of minutes to fully "set" and then cut and serve -- a slotted spoon or spatula works best because the squash may release some liquid as it bakes. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings, and you can refrigerate leftovers and reheat the next day.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

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