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How to Channel June Cleaver

Dear Kitchen Therapist,

I’ve become very nostalgic lately.  I long for the iconic foods of the 1950s—pigs in a blanket, Jell-O molds, pot roast with canned mushroom soup.  But, my kids hate that kind of food.  Any suggestions as to how I can satisfy my 1950s’ taste buds and still keep my family happy?  


What Would June Cleaver Do?  

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Dear Nostalgic,

Have you considered a tuna casserole?  This 1950s’ classic oozes comfort while saluting the wonders of canned, processed and frozen ingredients, along with a respectable fat content.  On the other hand, it can adapt to current tastes.  

See what you think about the recipe below.  It freshens the dish by substituting a lighter sauce for the canned soup and adding lots of fresh vegetables and more engaging seasonings.  On the other hand, the casserole holds true to packaged egg noodles, canned tuna and frozen peas.  

Crave more canned goods and bland flavors?  Try serving some chilled canned peaches for dessert.  To please your kids, buy peaches in pear juice, rather than heavy syrup.  To please everybody, buy a spray can of delicious whipped cream. 

Good luck and enjoy!


12 ounces wide, uncooked egg noodles 
1 1/4 cups frozen small peas, thawed
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 large (12-ounce) and 1 small (5-ounce) can solid white tuna packed in water, drained and broken into chunks
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups chopped onions (about 1 medium onion)
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken (or fish) broth
3 1/2 cups low-fat (2-percent) milk
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about 5/8 cup)

1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced crosswise into rounds 

Cook pasta according to package directions, but al dente.  Drain and mix in a large bowl with peas, parsley, carrots and tuna. 

Heat oil in a large (3-quart) saucepan on medium heat.  When hot, add mushrooms and fennel seeds.  Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms soften and most water evaporates, about 6 minutes.  Add garlic, onions and thyme and cook until soft, about 4 more minutes.  Fold mushroom-onion mixture into noodle mixture.  Return saucepan to stove.  

Add butter to saucepan on medium heat.  When butter melts, stir or whisk in flour and cook about 1-2 minutes.  Stir or whisk in chicken (or fish) broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stir or whisk in milk, mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Return to a simmer.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, as mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.  

Fold sauce into noodle mixture.  Spoon into well-greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and top with olives.  Bake at 375ºF for 25 minutes, or until casserole bubbles and cheese melts.