Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cookbook: The Casserole Queens, Author: Crystal Cook, Sandy Pollock, Cozy Tea Shop Mystery Novel: Agony of the Leaves, Author: Laura Childs

 casserole, cake and tea

My second husband always considered me to be a great cook and a terrible cook at the same time. He, of course, being a great cook all the time. And he was. But he knew it, in that obnoxiously vain way that is part of his charm.

He would tell you that I'm a great cook because I cook delicious food. In his opinion, I'm also a terrible cook because I can never make the same thing twice. I would find a recipe and make it and it would be good. However maybe I didn't have the vegetable broth it called for so I substituted ginger tea instead. Next time I made the same recipe, he would sit down wanting the same taste as before. He wouldn't find it because I had forgotten about the ginger tea and gone back to vegetable broth.

Get the picture?

I dearly love casseroles. The idea of dinner all in one pan that I put together and then leave in the oven for a while pleases me greatly. Add a salad and voila, hearty meal.

I was on a mad dash through  the library with my list and I saw a book on the end of one of the aisles that I had to snatch up - The Casserole Queens Cookbook by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock. When I got it home it turned out to be good enough to go on my book buy list.

We are having a very late birthday dinner for a couple of family members and they wanted chicken fettuchini alfredo. I pulled out the cookbook and lo and behold right there on page 74 - Chicken Penne Pasta With Pink Sauce. I showed the birthday folks the recipe and they thought it sounded good.

H o w e v e r...one family member doesn't like bell peppers & we never cook with capers & proscuitto =ham & they really prefer rotini noodles.

(Rotini noodles which, btw, we have a lot of in the cabinet already. And since Megan is a bad influence and now I prefer to use things we have already even though I don't participate in Lent...)

So here is the mutated recipe I went with: (Remember John Larouche  told us mutation is good.)

6 oz dried rotini noodles // 3 boneless, skinless whole chicken breasts // 2 tbsps olive oil // s&p // cooking spray // 2 garlic cloves, minced // 1 cup coarsely chopped ham // 1 tsp dried basil, crushed // 1 15 oz jar marinara // 1 10 oz jar alfredo // 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Cook, drain and set aside pasta.
Coat chicken breasts with OO and s&p. Bake until cooked through. Cool. Dice and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 by 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
In a large skillet over med heat add OO, chicken, ham, garlic and basil. Cook a few minutes.
Add chicken mixture to pasta mixture.
Mix marinara and alfredo.
Layer half chicken-pasta mixture, 1 cup pink sauce, other half chicken-pasta mixture, rest of pink sauce.
Sprinkle top with parmesan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until heated thoroughly & parm is melted and brown.

Here is a picture of the casserole in the pan:

A serving of casserole:


You can't have a birthday dinner without a cake and they wanted the lemon icecream cake I made once, forever ago for a Mother's Day tea we had. Yeah, right. Long since lost that recipe. Found the closest thing to the recipe that I remember  here except I tweaked it to be a one layer (9 by 13) cake.

Here's a picture of the cake:

(Ignore the ugly pan. I had a little mishap with the original pan. If I tried to tell you about all my cooking mishaps, we'd be here all day.)

A serving of cake:

It was delicious.

Speaking of tea (yes we were - see above sentence starting "you can't..."), I know I wasn't going to read any books while I'm writing my break out novel (haha) during Savvy Author Bootcamp but this one arrived and I couldn't resist:

"She watched the tea leaves dance and twist in the teapot. The agony of the leaves, it was called. The tea leaves doing their dance as they gave up their essence to the steaming water." from Agony of the Leaves by Laura Childs

This is her 13th Indigo Tea Shop mystery book in the series and I'm still enjoying them. I haven't written about them. I did write about her Cackleberry Club series here.

I'm thinking a nice cup of tea sounds good right now. What shall I brew? English Breakfast? Darjeeling? Silver Needle? Gunpowder Green? Earl Grey?

Since English Breakfast is all I have, I think I'll go with that. What about you?


  1. I love this post so damn much! Pictures of the kids, casserole (which I ADORE with huge freaking capital letters), cake, books, and tea! Terrific!

    (My mother cooks the way you do, it can be a blessing. And a curse.)

    1. The only thing with casseroles is you need a dishwasher. While they cook in one dish, the prep takes several.

  2. Silver needle. Always go with silver needle. :)

    The casserole looks yummy. And now I want some alfredo. Maybe for dinner (I make a mean alfredo). What's in the creamy layer on top of the cake?

    1. The cream layer is whipping cream with a couple teaspoons of sugar and some frozen lemonaide whipped in.

  3. And now you have a record of how you made it!

    1. I know. Good thing, too. They'll probably ask for it again. Even though I keep trying to convince them I can't cook anymore.

  4. oooo this sounds delicious.

    I've only ever heard of the Earl Grey tea, none of the others. I might have to go try a new tea. Silver Needle sounds interesting.

  5. Earl Grey is good. In the series her dog is named Earl Grey. And the tea has a touch of lavendar in it. Can't beat that.

  6. I'm really hungry now. But I'm excited, too, because I have a bunch of left-over Easter ham, so I can use it in the casserole! I'm still trying to eat all the food in the cabinet, but I did break down and buy waffles for Five. And apparently, the Captain ordered Girl Scout cookies from everyone in a uniform, so we're stocked up till Memorial Day. That's not helping my lame weight loss attempt, and neither will that casserole, but man does it look yummy!

    1. It really was a delicious casserole and you could use whatever noodles you have on hand. Bonus.