Last night, we did some casual entertaining. The very first friends we made in Dallas live two doors down, and we end up having dinner at their house or ours most weeks. They appreciate food experiments (and sometimes demand them!), so it’s a nice way to cook for people besides my husband without too much pressure.
Last night, we had Mediterranean Tuna-Noodle Casserole from the October 2007 issue of Everyday Food. I paired it with Salad with Cranberries and Almonds (Everyday Food – December 2004) and my go-to bread option – a take-and-bake loaf from Kroger. I haven’t tackled homemade bread yet, and those loaves are always fantastic.
The casserole was delish and super easy. I started by boiling a pound of egg noodles. In a separate pot, I cooked up some sliced red bell peppers and olive oil for about five minutes, then added a 1/2 cup of flour. One minute later, I started gradually adding 5 cups of whole milk to the pot. Once that reached a simmer, I combined the pepper-milk mixture, the noodles, 4 cans of tuna packed in olive oil (drained), 1 can of artichoke hearts, and 5 sliced scallions in the noodle pot. Voila! The massive quantity of food was then divided into two 2-quart baking dishes and topped with grated Parmesan. One hit the oven and one hit the freezer. Here’s how the oven dish turned out:
The crispy noodles on top are my favorite – yum.
For dessert, we had Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars from the November 2006 issue of Everyday Food. I LOVE to make cheesecake, but to do a whole cheesecake the right way (in a hot water bath) literally takes about eight hours. Most of that is chill time, thankfully. These bars took five hours total, but the hands-on time was only about 25 minutes.
The crust – ground up chocolate wafers, sugar, and butter – is baked first, for about 12 -15 minutes. Then, I combined cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, flour, pumpkin pie spice, and salt to make the filling. The chocolate part is 4 oz. melted semi-sweet chocolate combined with 1 cup of the filling, dropped over the filling in the pan and then swirled. The swirls in the magazine are impossibly pretty, of course – I’ll get there someday! Here are the bars, pre-oven:
I tried not to get too crazy with the camera since we had guests, so I don’t have an “after” picture. This cut really nicely, though, into 16 little squares. (So little, in fact, that everyone decided to have two.) Now I just need the extras to stop calling my name from the refrigerator.
TIPS: I’ve made this casserole once before at my parents’ house in Nebraska. On that first attempt, it turned out kind of wet instead of creamy. I really believe that I didn’t let the milk heat long enough to thicken properly when making the casserole base. It takes a little while for 5 cups of cold milk to reach a simmer on medium heat. Be patient! 🙂 Also, I cut the olive oil in half (from 1/3 cup to about 2 2/3 Tbsp.) this time.