My mother has a number of wonderful casserole recipes that she used to cook for the family regularly. (Now that she’s almost ninety, she only makes casseroles once in a great while.) My particular favorite was the tuna casserole. But since it calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shell macaroni, it is not exactly a fit for my low-carb lifestyle.
I’ve tried some substitutes for the noodles. None were good except of Dreamfields, which is a good noodle but not really that low in carbs. So I’ve been making my tuna casserole with bean sprouts subbing for noodles.
The first thing I have to figure out is the amounts. The original recipe called for 2 cups of noodles. But noodles expand when you cook them, while bean sprouts shrink a bit. I made a batch with 2 cups of fresh bean sprouts and it looked like half a batch. So I think I need to use 3-4 cups of fresh sprouts.
My mother always put some tiny green peas in her tuna casserole. But I didn’t have any, and the way the fresh mung bean sprouts smelled when they were cooking made me think I had vegetables enough in the dish with the bean sprouts. I have purchased some peas for sprouting, and when they arrive I may put some pea sprouts into a future batch.
You can buy canned bean sprouts at some grocery stores. But I think it’s better to sprout your own at home. I use the Victorio brand sprouters for my salad sprouts (alfalfa, clover, broccoli & radish seed), and that’s how I made my first batch of mung bean sprouts. I put 1 and 1/2 T (tablespoons) of mung bean seed in a small jar to soak overnight— three jars, actually, one for each sprout tray I was going to ‘plant’ with mung beans.
Each of the sprout trays in the Victorio brand sprouter holds about 2 cups and is 6 inches in diameter. The sprout trays are sold 4 to a set, but you can stack them up to 10 high. I pour off each jar’s contents into a sprouting tray and let the water drain off. The fact that you stack the trays means that each tray stays moist during the day— even if you skip a watering. I left my sprouts for 2 days over Christmas and they all thrived.
You rinse your sprouts at least 2 times a day. The newer model Victorio has a green topper with drain holes (like the sprouting trays do) and so all you have to do is fill the green topper pretty full with water and it will drain down your full stack and water every level.
IMPORTANT: before you water your sprouts, check the bottom water-catching tray. It may still have water from the last time you watered sprouts! So dump the old water before you add new water to the topper. The used water has enzymes so you can use it in soup broth or put it in a water dish for your pets or chickens.
For the first day or two, check often to see that the newly ‘planted’ sprouts are getting fully watered. Sometimes the sprouts in the center get a little dry. A method I’ve seen recommended is to measure your water, making sure it is under 2 cups, and then give each sprout tray a little water individually, making sure each level gets a good watering.
Bean sprouts, like pea and lentil sprouts, are ready in 4-5 days. I wash the bean sprouts in a bowl of lukewarm water to get the green seed hulls off. The green hulls are edible and full of fiber, but most folks like the taste better with most of the hulls off.
TO COOK: I put a suitable-sized kettle on the burner with water and perhaps sea salt. Bring the water to a boil before adding your sprouts, and cook for 10 minutes. You can also steam them if you have the right equipment. The resulting cooked sprouts can substitute for noodles or rice in a casserole.
Nissa’s Tuna Casserole
3-4 cups fresh mung bean sprouts, cooked
1-2 cans of tuna (in olive oil if available), flaked
1/2 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup
Sea salt, pepper and perhaps onion powder to taste, also 1/8 teaspoon of kelp or dulse powder/flakes if you like.
1 small can of tiny peas (optional), or one small can of mushrooms, chopped
Mix the ingredients well and place in casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered for 30 minutes, covered for 5-10 minutes.
My mother used to put crushed soda crackers, moistened with milk and dotted with butter. This adds carbs so I don’t do it. I suppose I could use chopped pecans covered in melted butter for a lower-carb topping, but I don’t like to bother. It’s good enough without.
FUTURE SPROUTING IDEAS
Because my sprouting trays are pretty full, I started the new batch of noodle sprouts in a 1 quart canning jar. I used 1/4 cup of seed. Since 1/4 cup is also 3 tablespoons, I measured out 2 T of mung beans and 1 T of lentils. Lentils are great sprouters and even the brown lentils you find in a grocery store will sprout like the dickens! Plus, I once sprouted some lentils I KNEW had been in my cupboards for 10 years and they sprouted well. So adding the lentils to the mix will save some money.