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The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever Paperback – September 1, 2008
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About the Author
Beatrice Ojakangas has written over 20 cookbooks. She teaches cooking classes in her home near Duluth, Minnesota.
Susie Cushner is a Boston-based photographer.
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The recipes range from casseroles for two, casseroles for crowds, casseroles for breakfast (scrumptious) and there's even a small section devoted to casseroles for kids, though my seven-year-old likes most of the recipes that we have tried from this book. Ojakangas refrains from using pre-made soups to flavor her casseroles, preferring to provide you with her own cream of mushroom soup, etc., making for meals that contain less sodium. And, though most casseroles seem to demand vast quantities of butter or cream, she does have a suitable number of recipes that have no dairy products. Some dishes take 30 minutes to cook, while others can be left virtually unattended for three-four hours. During this time, the scent of your meal sweeps through the house, curling up the stairs and into rooms, so that when the meal is ready--and you've done a dozen other things, like curl up with a book--everyone sits at the table with a hearty appetite. Oh, I do love those moments!
I am sharing her "Mac and Cheese to Beat the Box" recipe, found on page 572. This easy to make dish is the first macaroni and cheese recipe that I have ever found that my seven-year-old feels rivals Kraft's version. Essentially, when this recipe proved a hit, I went crazy with the book and have made about 20 of the author's recipes. Some I have never returned to, and others I have revamped to better suit the palates of my family--that's another nice feature: these recipes are easy to use as your base.
"Mac and Cheese to Beat the Box"
2 cups whole-wheat or regular elbow macaroni (or, in a pinch, penne, farfalle, or cavatelli)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (mild, medium, or sharp)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, cubed
1 cup undiluted evaporated milk
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1) Preheat the oven to 400F.
2) Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain, but do not rinse.
3) Combine the macaroni with the Cheddar and cream cheese in a shallow 1-quart casserole. Stir until the cream cheese melts into the hot macaroni. Stir in the milk and scrape down the sides of the dish.
4) In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned.
My slight variations:
I have made this dish in different ways, and have found that my daughter is put off by the Neufchatel, and prefers the taste of Philadelphia Cream Cheese to any of the other brands.
I do not use the evaporated milk, but substitute it with a cup of whole cream.
I use Panko bread crumbs (not fine)--we prefer the crustier form of breadcrumb for this dish (or make your own).
I combine various cheddar cheeses and actually use more than what is recommended.
Broccoli and/or cauliflower can easily be added to this dish, as can various porks: sausages, diced ham, etc.
I also loved the quick "mix and match" casserole section at the beginning of the book where the author gives you are starting point for making your own casseroles with your family's favorites or with whatever you happen to have laying around in the kitchen.
Many of the recipes are too "fancy" for what my household likes. I never thought I would ever say that about a casserole cookbook.
If I am going to spend the money on salmon or crab or a fine cheese, I am going to prepare a traditional meal with it, not throw it into a casserole.
Many of these recipes are not "kid friendly" either. If your kid is a picky eater, there is nothing in this book for you.
If I need to whip something up for a special occasion, some of the side dishes look pretty tasty. This is not a book I would ever use for everyday cooking, however.
ps: As a senior, I use the section on small casseroles for two. It's only one of two books that I know of that has cut the
amounts of the ingredients for small dishes.
Regarding the recipes, they are mouthwatering! I cook a lot, and have an extensive cookbook collection, mostly of gourmet cookbooks. The recipes in the book may not rise to the level of haute cuisine, however, I think that they will produce family and friend meals closer to the gourmet end of the spectrum than the normal casserole or comfort food cookbook. I was extremely pleased by my purchase!
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