Back to the Grind – Zucchini Lasagna and Tuna Casserole

20150827_085636

After it’s been in the refrigerator, it’s a little more solid than when it first comes out of the oven.

I’ve been home about 2 weeks now, and it’s back to the grind, and really hard to settle back into work. I didn’t exactly take the 7 weeks off – I was still doing my management work for the publisher, and doing a lot of editing – but there was time to take off and do family stuff. Now I’m home, and have to clean the house – man home alone for 7 weeks, nuff said? And getting back into the routine of juggling work and still cooking meals for the family.

The teenager isn’t home much. Now that she’s out of high school and working, I never know when she’s in or out, but she still seems to expect a meal when she IS home.

This fall I have a book release, and I have committed to writing another book before October – I better get on that! But above all, I’m still mom/wife and have to feed the family on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes I wonder if that’s what the hubby misses the most when I’m gone. He doesn’t exactly like cooking for himself.

Here’s a little bit of a funny thing. Neither hubby nor child like zucchini, but I happen to love it. So one night I made them tuna casserole. I don’t know what else to call it. It’s a one-pot meal (recipe to follow) and I didn’t feel like eating it, so I threw together a zucchini lasagna (recipe to follow).

I spent a few days with a dear high school friend while in Alaska, and she made a zucchini lasagna. And although it was good, it wasn’t great. I say this because it was flavorful, but it didn’t have enough “stuff” in it. I like lots of stuff in my lasagna. LOTS of stuff. Which leads to another funny I remembered. While spending time a few years ago with my aunt in Nebraska, she served lasagna, and my kiddo and I really disliked it. It was hamburger, onions, cheese, sauce and noodles. Very bland and boring. When my kiddo told the aunt what we normally put in lasagna, she looked as if she would gag. Spinach? Mushrooms? Cottage cheese? ewww.

We firmly believe the more stuff in a lasagna the better!

And the fact that neither hubby or kid will touch it, I was able to make a few “TV dinner” packages to pop in the freezer so I can warm it up for lunch when I don’t feel like scrounging for something else.

The tuna casserole is a recipe morphed from my mother. I really don’t know what the original recipe was, because I’ve been making this so long. I’m sure she doesn’t use the amount of garlic I use. More garlic, the better!

Zucchini Lasagna

  • 1 very large or two med zucchini
  • 1 jar/can spaghetti sauce (or equivalent homemade) – I cheated because I was in a hurry and used a jar of Catelli Garlic and Onion flavor
  • 1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 1 lb chicken breast or any other meat you would put in a lasagna (cooked)
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 1/2 to 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 lb combination of shredded sharp cheddar and mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese grated (I just use Kraft in the green jar)
  • black pepper, garlic powder, dry basil
  • salt
  1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise about 1/4″ thick. If you have a slicer, it kid of works. I actually find it easier with a very sharp knife.
  2. In a colander set in the sink, put down a layer of the zucchini slices and sprinkle liberally with salt. Add another layer and sprinkle. Keep doing this until all your zucchini slices are in the colander and salted. Let set awhile – I don’t know the time. It was a couple of hours for me. This will bring out a lot of the moisture.
  3. While your zucchini is “weeping”, Fry your meat with the onions and mushrooms, adding the pepper and garlic powder to taste (using a little olive oil in the pan). You want them mostly cooked, to get out most of the moisture. When this lasagna cooks, it’s fairly wet – as I said more of a casserole – so you want as much moisture out of everything you can before it goes in the layers.
  4. Once your meat mixture is cooked, and your zucchini looks like it’s cried all over itself, rinse the zucchini thoroughly, getting out as much salt as possible. Then pat them dry with paper towel.
  5. I used a 9×13 pan sprayed liberally with non-stick spray. Or a casserole dish would work too – probably a 5 or 6 quart size is best.
  6. Put down a layer of the noodles on the bottom. Add about 1/3 of the sauce on top. Spread out your ricotta or cottage cheese over the sauce. Then sprinkle with Parmesan, about 1/3 of the cheddar/motz, and then a very light sprinkle of basil.
  7. Put down another layer of zucchini slices.
  8. Spread your meat/veggie mixture over the zucchini.
  9. Pour the rest of the sauce over the meat mixture, making sure it’s even.
  10. Sprinkle rest of shredded cheese on top.
  11. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees, uncovered. It’s done when it bubbles and the topping cheese is just lightly browned.

Obviously, if you want vegetarian, just leave out the meat. In the picture shown, I had added a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes on top of the cottage cheese, and I’d thrown in about 1 cup frozen spinach with the meat mixture. Both are totally optional, as far as I’m concerned. I just happened to have them “on hand”.

Tuna Casserole – One Pot Meal20150827_085514

I love the Barilla protein plus noodles. This recipe makes about 3 quarts of food. My hubby loves tuna, so basically, he’d eat it all week if it’s available. He likes taking it to work for lunches.

  • 1/2 box macaroni noodles (or the spiral ones work too)
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 3 cans tuna (drained)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 can sweet peas – drained (or about 1.5 cup frozen)
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1 bunch green onions (chopped)
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar, cubed or shredded
  1. Cook your noodles as directed on the box. Drain and set aside – Do not rinse. The leftover starch on them will help thicken the casserole
  2. Using the same pot, heat together the tuna, soup, milk, peas, garlic and onion powder until bubbly and simmer for about 10 min to get the seasonings cooked through.
  3. Add in the green onions. I guess this would be optional, but we love onions too, so the almost uncooked green onions adds a nice zing to it.
  4. Once your “soup” is hot, add the noodles and stir well.
  5. At that point, I turn off the heat, put the cheese on top, and cover it. This lets the noodles re-heat well, and melt the cheese. Then it’s time to serve!
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