Saturday, August 8, 2009

DF7: Tuna Melt and Creamy Tomato Soup Makeover

One of my favorite go-to meals when I'm pressed for time is tuna melts and creamy tomato soup. When we combined households, I was pleasantly surprised to find that DC is crazy about tuna melts! He would happily eat them every week. DS is going through a phase where he won't eat them, so I only make them when he's at his dad's.

I figured this dairy-free thing would mean the end of my old standby. What's a tuna melt without the melt? That's kind of the whole point! Well, with a few adjustments, I managed to create dairy-free versions of both the sandwiches and the soup!

And DC ate every bite! SCORE!!

I used a recipe from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook to create a block "uncheese" version of Colby cheese. Again, it was quick and simple to make. This provided a "melty" cheese to top my tuna melts. Here is the recipe:

Colby Cheez from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook
Free of gluten, soy, corn; Contains nuts

1 1/2 c. water
5 T agar flakes or 1 1/2 T agar powder
1/2 c. roasted red peppers (seeded and peeled) or pimiento pieces
1/2 c. chopped raw cashews or skinless Brazil nuts
1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes
*juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
2 T sesame tahini
2 t. onion powder
1 t. salt
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dry mustard

Lightly oil a 3-cup storage container and set aside.

Combine the water and agar in a small saucepan ad bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until dissolved, about 5-10 minutes.

Transfer to a blender and add the remaining ingredients.

Here are my dry ingredients. I forgot to chop the cashews so I had to pick them out of the bowl and give them a good chop!

Process several minutes until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as necessary.

Pour into the prepared container and cool uncovered in the fridge. When completely cool, cover and chill several hours or overnight. To serve, turn out of the container and slice. Store leftovers covered in the fridge. Will keep 5-7 days.

Here's the finished cheez, cut in half for slicing:

We enjoy a product sold at WF called Roman Tuna Salad, which I now make at home. This is the filling for our tuna melts. It's quick and easy to make and packs a lot of great flavors. The amounts below are just approximations, use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. DC has been under the impression that he does not like olives most of his adult life, but after trying this salad, remarked, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but the olives just kind of MAKE this salad!" I think he just hadn't tried olives, especially kalamata olives, since he made up his mind at age 7 that olives were not for him. :)

DomesticMuse's Roman Tuna Salad

Makes enough to fill 4 open-face sandwiches generously, with a bit leftover

1 lg. can solid-pack albacore tuna, drained and flaked
4-5 artichoke hearts, marinated or water packed, chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 roasted red pepper, chopped
6-7 pitted kalamata olives, halved
Mayonnaise (preferably Hellmann's ) to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the tuna, artichokes, red onion, roasted pepper, and olives in a medium bowl. Add mayo to taste. This salad is so flavorful and moist from all the veggies you don't need a lot of mayo. A couple of squirts from the plastic bottle is usually plenty for us. Combine the mayo and tuna mixture well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the Tuna Melts, toast 4 slices of whole grain bread. Preheat the broiler. Place the toasted bread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cover each slice generously with tuna salad. Top with cheese and run under the broiler until the cheese melts and is bubbly, 2-3 minutes for dairy cheese, about 5 minutes for the Colby uncheese.

Here are the sandwiches topped with the sliced Colby Cheez:

And here they are, after going under the broiler:

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are and what else you're serving. Sometimes we only eat 1 openface sandwich apiece. The extras make good leftovers for lunch the next day.

To go with the Tuna Melts, I wanted to try making a dairy-free version of creamy tomato soup. I was in the mood for Italian flavors for the soup, and noticed that the WF store brand bottled pasta sauce not only already contained onions, basil, and other Italian seasonings, it was a lot cheaper than the canned tomatoes. I decided to give it a try as the basis for my soup, figuring it would go together quickly, though not as fast as the Pacific brand ready-made Creamy Tomato Soup I often indulge in.

The pasta sauce I bought is the 365 Organic Pasta Sauce, Classic flavor, which comes in a 25 oz. jar.

Here is what I ended up with:

Italian Tomato Bisque By DomesticMuse

To make this vegan, substitute margarine for the butter and vegetable broth for the chicken stock.


2 T. butter
2 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. plain soymilk
1/2 jar ready-made tomato pasta sauce (without cheese, check label)
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t. sugar
1 T sesame tahini

1. First, make a roux by melting the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 2-3 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place the soymilk in a glass measure and heat in the microwave until hot but not boiling, about 1 1/2 minutes.
3. Add the hot soymilk all at once to the roux, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the pasta sauce and the chicken broth to the white sauce in the pan. Combine well, cover, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste, Whisk in the sugar and the tahini, which gives the soup a nice creamy texture and some richness. Taste and adjust as necessary, adding more salt, pepper, pasta sauce, chicken broth or soy milk until you are satistifed with the combination of flavors.

Serve in warmed mugs along with the Tuna Melts.

Now, for my reviews!

Block Colby Cheez

The agar is used as a "jelling" agent for the cheez, like gelatin. It is the only ingredient so far that I thought was expensive, with a bag of the flakes selling for about $8. When I realized it was just vegan gelatin, I thought, well, shoot! I have a box of plain Knox gelatin, I could have just used that! Well, the agar actually has a major advantage over the Knox. It sets up incredibly fast, even when warm. I had to put mine back on the stove for a minute to try to melt it some because I wasn't quite finished prepping the rest of the ingredients when the agar first dissolved. Definitely get it into the blender as soon as it's dissolved, because it will start setting immediately. Also, it produces a much firmer texture than regular gelatin, a plus if you are trying to make a product you can slice and grate.

The cheez was cool enough to cover as soon as it came out of the blender, and was ready to use in just a few hours. I didn't taste it cold, as most vegan cheeses are pretty disgusting that way. It unmolded easily (I had sprayed the mold with nonstick spray). It was also easy to slice, though I had trouble getting the slices thin enough. Practice, I guess! I ended up using a knife to slice it instead of a cheese wire. Maybe I'll try the cheese wire next time. I was a little afraid it might crumble with the wire, but I think it might be ok.

Since I didn't taste the cheez cold by itself, I won't give any ratings. However, it did come out nice and firm, with an attractive color, and it smelled good.

Tuna Melts with Colby Cheez

We found the finished sandwiches to be just as delicious as ones made with dairy cheese. The main difference is in the texture. Since non-dairy cheese contains no casein, it doesn't get bubbly and stretchy when it melts. It just kind of sits there. However, the flavor was wonderful!

Color: 3 stars. It was certainly nice and orange, like real Colby
Texture: 2 stars. It was smooth and creamy, but not at all like melted cheese. Though not unpleasant to eat by any means. I found I liked that it wasn't oily like melted dairy cheese.
Cheese Flavor: 3 stars: Cheesy! Yummy!
Taste: 2.5 stars: Delicious when hot. I'm giving it 2.5 stars instead of 3 only because I would not eat this sliced cold on a sandwich. I think it would make delicious macaroni and cheese when grated and melted into a cheese sauce. It was quite yummy hot on the sandwiches.
Overall: 2.5 stars: Very tasty melted on the sandwiches. I probably wouldn't serve this to guests, but it definitely makes it possible for me to enjoy a delicious dairy-free tuna melt!
DC-O-Meter: He liked it, and felt the flavor was cheesy. His exact words: "I prefer real cheese, but I ate every bite, didn't I?" We both did. No leftover sandwiches.

Italian Tomato Bisque

A very good alternative to tomato soup made with cream. This was quite tasty indeed. It was rich, creamy, and flavorful from all the seasonings in the pasta sauce. The tahini did not affect the flavor, but did wonders for making the soup creamy.

DC particularly enjoyed this soup. My only problem with it was that it contained some tough bits of tomato with skin, that I had to spit out. If I still had my immersion blender, that would take care of the problem. Alternatively, I guess I could strain it before serving, but then we'd miss out on the tasty onion bits.

The ease of preparation using the prepared sauce over canned tomatoes that I put through the food mill, plus not having to chop and cook onions or fresh basil, I think outweighs the texture issues. I will definitely make this again.

I used to make tomato soup with Progresso Crushed Tomatoes, but I haven't been able to find them in stores the past couple of years. I noted yesterday that the Teeter had them. I may give them a try, too, instead of the pasta sauce, when I don't want a soup with Italian flavors, but just a plain old fashioned cream of tomato.

2.5 Stars

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