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February, 2009

Potato and Tuna Casserole Pouches

By Dennis Linden

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, it is not impossible with a little planning and it can even be fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever
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Cookin with the Kids Image
Each COOKIN’ with the KIDS feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together, under the supervision of an adult. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as where help will be especially needed. Since the recipes are the kids’ contribution to a family meal, each article will include suggested complimenting dishes from Melissa’s recipe archives for the adults.

Here’s a fun variation on the traditional Tuna Casserole, which includes a hands-on crafts project for your young sous chefs in the making of foil pouches for the ingredients. Swapping out the traditional green peas in favor of Melissa’s Shelled Edamame upgrades the nutritional value of this dish and using Melissa’s Sliced Carrots, which are peeled and steamed, speeds up the prep time without sacrificing flavor.

Another great taste twist comes by substituting Melissa’s Baby Dutch Yellow™ Potatoes for the higher calories of egg noodles, a standard ingredient in the classic recipe. Besides, the creaminess of this tasty spud definitely puts this dish in the “Extreme Comfort Food” category that your most finicky eater will not be able to resist.

Why the pouches instead of a casserole dish? Because it’s a task even the youngest assistant can do and it adds a bit of intrigue to the baking process for the kids. Of course this dish could be done in a baking dish, but where’s the fun in that? Also, if you double up on the ingredients and make twice as many pouches, half of them can be stored in the freezer for an even quicker meal preparation at another time! Not only is this dish a quick dinner for a busy family, the frozen pouches make for a no fuss hot lunch on a cold winter’s day. Thaw before baking or allow for extra oven time, of course.

As the recipe points out, do not overlook the green onion garnish for this dish. It presents a lesson in the difference between a “finely dice” and “roughly chop” cut for your young helpers. Plus, it also provides a chance to demonstrate to your little helpers that a garnish can be another ingredient that is used to flavor a dish and not just for decoration. Also, sprinkling the green onions on each dish is another task that gets the youngest child involved in the preparation.

Ingredients:  Potato & Tuna Casserole Pouches
Potato & Tuna Casserole Pouches
Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
3 medium Melissa’s Baby Dutch Yellow™ potatoes, cut into ¼ inch sticks
1 can (10¾ oz) cream of mushroom soup, condensed (reduced fat)
2 cans (6 ounces) chunk white tuna in water, drained
1 cup Melissa’s Shelled Edamame (soy beans)
1 cup Melissa’s Sliced Carrots
½ cup organic green onions, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 sheets (12 in. square) heavy-duty aluminum foil
¼ cup organic green onions, roughly chopped, for garnish

What Kids Can Do:
1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients except the chopped green onion, garnish.
2. Divide equally among foil sheets, about 1½ cups each, placing mixture on the right half of foil squares just off center.
3. To seal each pouch, fold left side of foil over mixture. Fold in right edge 1/2 inch; fold again. Fold top and bottom edges the same way, leaving room for heat to circulate inside the pouch.
4. Place on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack in oven for 35 minutes.
5. Sprinkle each serving with the green onion garnish*.

What Adults Can Do:
- Heat oven to 450°F.
- Supervise or open soup and tuna cans yourself depending on the ages of your small helpers.
- Supervise or slice the potatoes yourself depending on the ages of your small helpers.
- Do the honors of opening the hot pouches.
- With scissors, cut a cross in the top of each and then pull back points, being careful as the steam is released.

*Plating (adult note):
As simple as this dish is it also presents an opportunity to teach your young sous chefs about garnishing plates, though they are only destined for the family’s kitchen table. The green onion garnish really adds taste to this dish, so it is a great lesson about adding a little decorative splash to a simple dish that also adds flavor.