Foodie Flattery: Tuna “No-Noodle” Casserole

I grew up in a busy family of five where money was pretty tight. As such, dinners in our house were kept on a budget, usually one-pot meals, and needed to be able to feed a family of five pretty easily. This meant we had a handful of standby dinners that usually appeared on a weekly or rotating basis: spaghetti, hamburger helper, meatloaf, stuffed shells, cavatini, and my personal favorite: tuna noodle casserole.

bearfamilystrong.com | tuna casserole

I don’t know what it is about egg noodles, cream of celery soup (my mom tried using cream of mushroom once but my dad wasn’t having any of it – he sniffed that out before he even took a bite), and canned tuna; but tuna noodle casserole night was one of my favorite dinner nights in our house. I haven’t had tuna casserole since moving out of my parent’s house for college in 2000, but for some reason lately I’ve been craving it.

Unfortunately, since I stopped eating grains/gluten after meeting my husband in 2011, tuna casserole is off the menu.

Fortunately, I have a slight pinterest addiction and one day I happened upon this beautiful “Paleo Tuna Casserole” post from Jay’s Baking Me Crazy. Tuna casserole made with spaghetti squash?! How did I not think of this on my own??

Welcome to the latest addition of Foodie Flattery: Paleo Tuna Noodle Casserole from Jay’s Baking Me Crazy. Gaah. So good. So worth it. It was so good in fact, that my eight-year old not only ate his entire portion without complaint, but ALSO told me that I should make it again. MAJOR. WIN.

bearfamilystrong.com | tuna casserole

I was a little skeptical about using coconut milk – not because of the potential taste, but because I was worried it wouldn’t get thick and the casserole would end up too soupy – but as it turns out I had nothing to worry about. Using arrowroot powder as a thickener and adding eggs to the casserole before baking was the perfect way to hold everything together and as I suspected, you couldn’t taste the coconut milk at all.

Bottom line, this casserole was everything I hoped it would be and more. One bite and I was transported back to my parent’s kitchen table, fighting with my sister over the gooey melted cheese my mom used as a topping for her own tuna casserole. In this version we used crushed chips as the topping, which was equally delicious.

bearfamilystrong.com | tuna casserole

Here’s the link again for the recipe I used – I omitted the mushrooms and used a bag of frozen peas and carrots instead (based on the way my mom used to make it – my dad abhors mushrooms). Next time I think we’ll use both – and I highly recommend using these sweet and spicy jalapeno potato chips to top your casserole. Yum.

jalapeno chips

*Note: To make this a Whole30 approved dinner, simply omit the chips. Trust me, it will still be comfort food delicious.

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Foodie Flattery: Thai Lemongrass Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk

Welcome to the second edition of Foodie Flattery!

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So, I decided that I’m going to make this “Foodie Flattery” idea a thing on my blogs. I love to check out other food blogs – mostly for the pictures, I’ll admit – and it only recently occurred to me to try to re-create some of the dishes I ogle over on the internet. I often wonder how much of the picture is attributed to excellent food styling and photography, and how much is actually because the food really does look that good.

The verdict: Definitely the former. Case in point, take 30 seconds to check out this picture, and then compare to my picture above. Am I right??

Anyway, I was trying to come up with some new dinners to eat during our Whole30 when I got distracted and wandered over to Half Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard. I adore looking at the pictures on Tieghan’s blog – she is a fabulous food photographer – but I’ve never really had any intention of making the recipes because frankly, they sound like a lot of work. Many of the recipe titles imply about a thousand ingredients, and I always just assumed that many of them weren’t (or couldn’t be adapted to be) Whole30 approved, and so I usually just ogled over the pictures and then moved on. Really, it just means that I’m lazy.

So when I actually looked at the ingredient list for this Thai Lemongrass Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk I was pleasantly surprised – if you omit the rice and noodles, this is totally Whole30!

bearfamilystrong.com | thai lemongrass chicken braised in coconut milk

I love coconut milk, but aside from curry I rarely use it in my food. The recipe also calls for lemongrass, fresh ginger, and fresno chiles – also ingredients I rarely or never use.  I’m afraid of braising – mostly because I never really understood what it meant. So in terms of stepping out of my comfort zone, this recipe fits the bill on multiple levels. In terms of simplicity, I’d call this recipe a 5 out of 10. Once you get everything in the pot, it drops down to a 1 because all you do is let it cook, but browning the chicken ended up being a bit more difficult – the chicken kept sticking to the pan so I lost a lot of skin by the time it was all said and done.

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In terms of looks, I’d give my end result a 3 out of 10. Clearly I have a ways to go in my food styling ability. (Note to self; next time, remember to keep some of the fresh ingredients to use as garnishes in the picture!) But in terms of taste the recipe gets a solid 10 – it was delicious. I loved the combination of lemongrass, ginger, and the hint of heat from the fresno chiles. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the bok choy and cilantro – they end up getting cooked in the dutch oven with everything else, so I found them to be a bit too overcooked for my liking. If I were to make this recipe again, I think I’d cook the bok choy separately and use fresh cilantro as a garnish.

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Back to my point above – obviously this is a dish best served with rice or noodles. To keep it Whole30, I whipped up a batch of saffron scented cauliflower rice and served the chicken and vegetables atop the rice and drizzled with a couple spoonfuls of the delicious coconut milk sauce from the pot. Looks aside, it turned out to be an excellent dinner!

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*Original recipe can be found here.

Beef Sirloin Tip Roast with Carrots and Potatoes

In an effort to live a more intentional life, Kevin and I decided we would start paying more attention to the the quality of our food and where it comes from. To keep a long story short, this led us to sign up for a meat CSA from a local farm. This particular CSA runs from January to May, with six bi-weekly shipments of “pork, beef, goat, lamb, local sustainably raised chicken and honey.” They have three different size shares; a “sampler share” of 2-3 pounds; a “lovers share” of 5-8 pounds, and the “family share” of 9-14 pounds. After much discussion with the husband we decided to sign up for the “lovers share”, mostly because this is the first time we’ve done a CSA and we weren’t really sure what to expect. I immediately began dreaming of all the high quality local meat we’d have on hand and all the new recipes I’d be able to try with all the meat we were going to get.

We picked up our first share last week and I have to be perfectly honest with you: I was a little bit underwhelmed. I should have taken a picture, but of course I didn’t think about it until just now. Anyway, in our first share we received:

– one pound sliced bacon

– ound 3.5 pound beef sirloin tip roast

– two bone-in pork loin chops

– one half chicken

I have to give the farm credit – the lovers share is supposed to be 5 to 8 pounds of meat and we did receive just about 8 pounds total. I guess I just thought in my head that it would be…more. With the bones in the pork chops and the chicken we’re really only getting closer to 5 pounds of usable meat; and the way that Kevin and I eat protein in this house, our “lovers share” will feed us for approximately five meals. Still, I am glad we signed up and I’m excited to see what we receive in future shipments.

And I did appreciate getting a beef sirloin tip roast, because it’s something I’ve never used before and so I immediately started looking up recipes. I’m pretty impressed with the way things turned out, if I do say so myself! After perusing some good recipes for inspiration, this is what we came up with:

bearfamilystrong.com | beef sirloin tip roast

First, we created a rub for our roast. We were feeling a little spicy, so our rub consisted of garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and some cayenne pepper for an extra kick. We mixed our spices with some olive oil to create a nice “paste”, and rubbed it all over our roast. Once that was done, we let it sit for about 30 minutes so the meat could marinate in all that goodness.

bearfamilystrong.com | beef sirloin tip roast

While the oven was preheating, we seared the roast in a hot cast iron skillet to seal in the juices. Once that was done, we set the roast on a bed of carrots, baby potatoes, and onion wedges tossed with olive oil and a little bit of salt and pepper, and roasted it in the oven at 350 for about an hour and fifteen minutes. We like our beef cooked medium rare, so we aimed for a temperature of about 135 degrees before we took the roast out to rest for another 15 minutes or so.

bearfamilystrong.com | beef sirloin tip roast

As it turns out our timing was perfect and we ended up with a beautiful warm red center to the meat, with the end pieces a little more well done. We intentionally left the vegetables simple – with only the barest hint of salt and pepper – because we ended up with a nice spicy “au jus” at the bottom of the pan to pour over everything once we plated up our meal. The end result had a nice kick of heat, but if you prefer things a little less spicy simply reduce or omit the cayenne pepper.

bearfamilystrong.com | beef sirloin tip roast

Assuming you clean your bowls as you go, this meal turned out to be a great one pot Whole30 dinner that required very little clean up! Not to mention we have delicious leftovers for the next couple of days – stay turned for a couple creative ways to use them up!

Beef Sirloin Tip Roast with Carrots and Potatoes

prep time: 30 minutes

cook time: 75 minutes plus 15 minutes resting

serves: 6 (or 2 with lots of leftovers!)

INGREDIENTS:

3.5 pound sirloin tip roast

1 bag carrots, sliced (or 1 bag baby carrots)

1 bag baby potatoes

2 whole onions, chopped into wedges

olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

1/2 Tbsp thyme

1/2 tbsp oregano

2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)

TO DO:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, mix your spices with about 1/8 – 1/4 cup olive oil. In a bowl (or a gallon sized ziplock bag for less mess), combine the roast and the spice-oil mixture, rub thoroughly. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop your vegetables and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour into the bottom of a roasting pan.

In a cast iron or heavy skillet, heat approximately 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sear the roast on all sides (about 1-2 min per side) and set the roast on top of the vegetables. Roast in the oven for 75 minutes (for medium rare), remove, and let rest for an additional 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is about 145 degrees. Slice and serve with vegetables.

bearfamilystrong.com | beef sirloin tip roast