A Bite Inspired by… Finding Dory (2016 Film):
“Fish are friends, not food.” In the spirit of this wisdom from the beloved Pixar films “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory”, I decided to revamp my recipe for tuna casserole by replacing the fish with extra-firm tofu. It’s delicious and does taste a lot like tuna without harming any of Dory’s fish buddies. You can serve the casserole as is or create Dory’s octopus friend, Hank, using pretzels, olives, and goldfish. Fun for kids and delicious for the whole family!
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I practically grew up on the beloved Pixar film “Finding Nemo”, so you can only imagine my excitement when “Finding Dory” hit theaters last summer. I’m sure many of you felt the same way.
When the movie opened last June, my dad and I were the first ones in the theater because DUH, it’s “Finding Dory”. So, we were sitting there and this big, burly, sort of tough-looking guy walked in with his wife and sat down a few rows ahead of us. We were just minding our own business, reminiscing about the original movie, when the guy suddenly turns around, points to his wife, and says, “She made me come to this movie, you know”. We both just blinked at him. I mean, we were clearly there to see the movie too, so who were we to judge him for being there? I finally responded, “Don’t worry, sir. It’s fun! You’ll enjoy it.” He kind of grunted and then turned back around. As you can probably guess, when the movie finally started, anti-Finding-Dory-guy was laughing longer and harder at every single joke than anyone else in the theater (except, for me, of course). See? “Finding Dory” is irresistible. I’m glad he enjoyed it.
If you read my Vegan Thai Curry Mac and Cheese post inspired by “Ratatouille” (this is my most popular recipe, by the way—check it out if you haven’t already!), you know that I’m a huge fan of Pixar films. I own DVD copies of every single Pixar movie ever made. Not sure if that’s something to brag about or not, but now you know. My newest one is, of course, “Finding Dory”. Inspired by the DVD, I decided to create a super easy, kid-friendly recipe that your whole family will love.
Since a guiding theme in the original “Finding Nemo” film is “fish are friends, not food”, I figured Dory wouldn’t be very impressed if I decided to use real fish in a recipe inspired by her movie. So, instead, I decided to make a No-Fish “Tuna” Casserole that uses extra-firm tofu instead of tuna. See? No friends or fish were harmed in the making of this casserole, Dory! The tofu is cut in small cubes and does taste surprisingly like tuna!
This recipe is super easy. All you do is dump the ingredients in a casserole dish, bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done! It’s in the oven before Dory even has time to forget all the ingredients. ? Then, comes the fun part. You get to use your baked No-Fish “Tuna” Casserole to create Dory’s new BFF, Hank, the grouchy, but loveable octopus. Well, the septopus, technically. Hank lost a leg “somewhere along the way”, but he proves throughout the film that you don’t need all your legs to be a hero.
I used shredded carrots to mimic Hank’s orange color. Once you mold the casserole into his body shape, it really does look a lot like him. I used sliced olives for his eyes and Braided Pretzel Twists for his legs (I used 8, but you can use 7 for authenticity!) The crowning jewels of my food/art creation are the cute little Dory, Nemo, and Marlin goldfish swimming around Hank. How cute are they? I was SO excited when I found these “Finding Dory” goldfish. You can also use regular goldfish. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim, swim… Erm. What was I talking about again??
Oh, yes! Dory’s delicious casserole. This dish was actually adapted from a tuna casserole recipe printed in the Mini Page about 15 years ago. The Mini Page was a kid’s insert in the Washington Post that had recipes, articles for kids, games, and other fun stuff. I was obsessed when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait for my dad to bring home the paper every Sunday, so I could read the Mini Page, the comics, and the TV Guide. Oh, how times have changed… I haven’t looked at an actual TV Guide, since they started putting the guide right on the screen. Craziness.
Sadly, they stopped publishing Mini Page in the Washington Post awhile back, but their tuna casserole recipe lives on through this blog post! This gorgeous casserole has creamy corn, sweet carrots, and yummy rice. The original recipe had tuna, obviously, but I swapped that out for extra firm-tofu and it tastes just as delicious. I’ve been making this recipe for almost 15 years, so I’ve changed it quite a bit from the original. But, the overall taste and ingredients are similar.
You’ll be amazed at how creamy this casserole is considering there’s no dairy products. The creamed corn and the dash of soymilk make for a really gorgeous texture. The carrots add a beautiful sweetness and the rice makes it a complete meal. This casserole is both vegan and gluten-free on its own, if you don’t add the goldfish or pretzels on the side.
Kids LOVE this recipe. My mom made it for so many of my friends growing up and they all loved it. With the delicious taste and the fun “Finding Dory” theme, your kids are sure to love it too. It’s a great way to introduce them to tofu. They’ll have an awesome time making their own octopuses (or is it octopi?) and decorating their plates with goldfish. (Note: you can skip making the octopus and just serve the casserole out of the oven, if you’re pressed for time!)
I hope you enjoy this fun, healthy family-favorite! And, remember, ALWAYS keep swimming.
P.S. You can make this casserole with tuna instead of tofu, if you want. Dory won’t like it, but I won’t tell. ?
- For the casserole:
- 1 (14 ounce) package of extra firm tofu, drained and cut in small cubes
- 1 (14.75 ounce) can of cream style corn
- 2 carrots, shredded
- ⅓ cup instant rice
- ¼ cup soy milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- For the octopus:
- 32 braided pretzel sticks
- 8 sliced black olives
- A few handfuls of goldfish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Add the tofu, cream style corn, carrots, rice, and soy milk to a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Stir well, but gently, so the tofu doesn’t break apart.
- Add salt and pepper. Stir again.
- Place casserole dish in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes until bubbly.
- Allow casserole to cool for 5-10 minutes. Put equal amounts of casserole in the center of 4 large plates.
- Use the back of a spoon to push casserole into an octopus shape (an oval with a flat bottom).
- Put two slices of black olive on top of each shape for the eyes.
- Arrange 7 or 8 pretzels underneath for the legs.
- Arrange goldfish around the octopus. Enjoy!