The “new” tuna noodle casserole! This version is cheesy, creamy, sophisticated and satisfying!
This post is a little different. After spending a few days in Iowa looking at fields of corn (more on that later), I thought it would be a good time to talk produce! Fall has so many wonderful flavors that you have to experience. I’m not just talking about pumpkins and apples. Yes, those are delicious in their right, but this season offers so much more. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Brussels sprouts– These little guys are a member of the cabbage family. You will want to buy sprouts that are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Make sure your sprouts look green, no wilty Brussels sprouts will do. While Brussels sprouts last a few weeks in the fridge, it’s best to eat them right away before the taste becomes too strong. To prepare Brussels sprouts, wash them and pat them dry. Remove any loose leaves. Trim the ends and make an “x” in the sprout. This will help the heat cook the sprouts more evenly. Brussels sprouts pair well with bacon, blue cheese, white sauces, nutmeg, chicken, thyme, hazelnuts, apples and potatoes. If you like Brussels sprouts, try this Beef and Brussels Sprouts.
2. Grapes – Grapes generally have smooth skins. Some are seedless and some are not. Try to choose grapes that are plump and full colored. Green grapes should be pale yellow and red grapes should not have any green. Unwashed grapes can be stored in their plastic bag for 1 week. Grapes pair well with almonds, arugula, chicken, blue cheese, duck, fish, honey, rosemary and pork. Grapes are excellent in savory dishes like this Chicken with Blue Cheese and Grapes.
3. Acorn Squash – Acorn squash comes in a variety of colors including yellow, dark green, tan and orange. Look for a squash that is on the heavy side for its size. Avoid any squash that is bruised. You can store your squash in a cool, dry area. Acorn squash pairs well with allspice, cinnamon, garlic, maple syrup, pork, and vanilla. Check out this recipe for chipotle chicken stuffed brown sugar roasted acorn squash.
4. Cranberries – Cranberries are available in the produce section of most supermarkets from September to December. When buying your cranberries look for brightly colored, plump berries that are neither bruised nor dented. Wash cranberries thoroughly before using them in your recipes. Cranberries can be kept for 2 months in the refrigerator and they freeze remarkably well (so stock up now). Cranberries pair well with goat cheese, cinnamon, ginger, honey, pork and poultry as well as sweet potatoes. Ready for some cranberries? Check out this Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake.
5. Cauliflower – Cauliflower is also a member of the cabbage family. Cauliflower is predominantly white, but occasionally you’ll find a head of purple green variety (fun for the kids, right?). When picking out your cauliflower, look for a tight head with bright green leaves. Cauliflower will only last in the refrigerator for about 5 days so dig into it quickly. Cauliflower pairs well with apples, green bell peppers, brown butter, tart cheese like goat cheese and Parmesan, chile peppers, garlic, curry powder and potatoes. Want a new way to eat cauliflower? Check out these easy cauliflower fritters.
6. Mushrooms – I’m sure you’ve noticed that mushrooms are available year round. Some are in their peak during the fall and winter months. Look for mushrooms that are firm and evenly colored. Avoid any spots or slime. Rinse mushrooms with water and dry with a paper towel. Use immediately after cleaning. Mushrooms will keep unwashed and in their original container for up to three days. Mushrooms pair well with bacon, asparagus, capers, Parmesan, chicken, cilantro, eggs, ginger, leeks and most meats.
7. Sweet Potatoes – Choose sweet potatoes with a smooth skin, avoid any with cracks or bruises. Sweet potatoes can be stored in a cool dry place for 3-5 weeks. Sweet potatoes pair well with maple syrup, coconut, cumin, hazelnuts, orange juice, andouille and chorizo sausage, paprika, roasted meats and whiskey. Did you know sweet potato slices make an excellent appetizer? Check ouy these sweet potato crostini.
8. Pomegranate – When buying pomegranates, choose fruits that are round and heavy for their size. The seeds or arils are what you want from the pomegranate. To extract those, cut the top off the pomegranate. Fill a large bowl with water. Cut a slit through the skin of the fruit and gently tear open the fruit. To avoid a faceful of red juice, be sure the slit is facing away from you. Place the fruit in the water and pull out the seeds. Pomegranates will keep stored in a cool dry place for up to two months. Pomegranates pair well with avocados, arugula, cardamom, chicken, couscous, hummus, fish, pine nuts, roasted meats and stewed dishes. This Apple Pomegranate Salad with Honey Balsamic is a great recipe to try if you are new to pomegranates.
9. Quince – A quince is a hard, round fruit that is a cross between a pair and apple but tastes like neither! Choose fruit that are firm and without spots. Quinces can stay in your refrigerator for up to three weeks. Quinces pair well with beef, brandy, goat cheese, chicken, cinnamon, honey, lamb, maple syrup and vanilla. Now that I’ve learned about quinces I’m thinking it’s time to try this Dimpled Quince Pudding Cake. You with me?
Did I bore you? Probably. But there are so many foods to experiment with and get to know! I wish I had a recipe that incorporated everything on this page! But I don’t. Instead I have a comfort food recipe. I gave the classic Tuna Noodle Casserole an update. While it is still creamy and cheesy, the cheese I used is a little more sophisticated. This casserole has cream cheese, jack cheese and Guyere. I added lots of fresh mushrooms and shallots to my casserole (both fall produce super stars). Feel free to change out the cheese if you like, mozzarella and cheddar will work if that’s what you have in your fridge. Leave out the mushrooms too and throw in peas if that’s what is in your freezer. Tuna Noodle Casserole is extremely versatile and so easy to prepare. This casserole WILL quickly become a weeknight staple!
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 1 lb rotini pasta
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 8 oz package mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup guyere cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 12 oz can white tuna packed in water, drained
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add shallots and mushrooms. Sprinkle dried sage and oregano and cook until slightly browned. Remove and set aside.
- Melt 4 tablespoon butter in the skillet. Whisk in flour and cook until mixture thickens. Gradually whisk in broth. Add cream cheese, guyere and Monterey jack. Continue to whisk until cheese melts and sauce begins to thicken. Stir in salt and pepper.
- Combine pasta and tuna. Stir in sauce and mushrooms. Stir to combine. Pour onto a 13x9 casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, panko and butter. Sprinkle over pasta. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.