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Griffin to Go: Casseroles Were Never Like This

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Pork Chops with Sauerkraut

Who doesn’t love a good casserole? Layers of noodles or potatoes alternating with meat and a creamy soup holding the two together, all under a thick, gooey, crusty layer of cheese on top. I can remember my mom making them all bubbly and hot under that protective layer of Cheddar.

Texas is famous for King Ranch Casserole, with corn tortillas mixed with chicken, Ro-Tel, onion and soup blended together as well as plenty of enchilada-based casseroles with cheese melting everything into a unified whole.

The average homemaker loves the ease of assembling a casserole, and you’ll still find more than a few dotting church potlucks and parties.

But there are some who refuse to leave well enough alone, meaning casseroles are constantly getting transformed by those who refuse to use a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup because of the added sodium and other questionable ingredients. They prefer to make their own from scratch.

That’s the basis of two new cookbooks, “The Casserole Queens Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, $17.99) by two Austinites, Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock, and “Not Your Mother’s Casseroles” (The Harvard Common Press, $16.95) by Faith Durand.

Both give casseroles a bit of a facelift, offering such one-dish wonders as Turkey Enchiladas with Spinach and Cheese, Tender Turkey with Sausage and Mushrooms, and Lobster Boy Casserole. You can make your own soups, noodles or what you need for these recipes or you can used already-prepared versions.

The breakfast casseroles, including Whole-Grain Almond-Apricot Bread Pudding and Bacon and Lentils with Egg, sound particularly good, especially for a holiday meal or a brunch.

And both sets of authors offer tips on preparing, keeping the pantry stocked and doing things ahead of time.

“Some casseroles can be prepared and then frozen before baking,” Durand writes. “The more moisture a casserole has, the better it will freeze. The rule of thumb says to avoid freezing potatoes, rice and pasta, although I have frozen and then baked some pasta dishes (especially lasagna) with particular success. Other things to avoid freezing are milk, tofu and all-vegetable dishes. The best casseroles to freeze are stews and meat dishes, as well as some fruit desserts. To bake, thaw an unbaked casserole in the refrigerator overnight, let it come to room temperature, then bake as directed in the oven.”

Layer sauerkraut, bacon, tomatoes and more with pork chops in this casserole.

Trouble is, casseroles are not diabetic friendly. All those noodles, potatoes, bread crumbs, flour-thickened sauces, corn and rice are all worse than sugar to my system, so I have to avoid them or get creative. That’s why I won’t be using either book as extensively as I would like. (World’s Greatest Chicken Pot Pie, which Cook and Pollock made on an episode of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” sounds incredible and I may just have to give in to temptation.)

But I did find the following recipe in “The Casserole Queens Cookbook,” which I modified by using apples instead of potatoes. And for the first time, I made my own sauerkraut, which was easier than I thought — and incredibly delicious.

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut

Cooking spray
10 slices bacon
2 (14-ounce) cans sauerkraut or homemade (recipe follows)
6 (1/2-inch thick) pork chops
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 medium onions, sliced
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can stewed tomatoes

Bake this casserole so the various layers of flavor blend together.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.

Line the bottom of the casserole dish with bacon. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, then lay them on top. Later the potato and onion slices over the pork, then scatter the tomatoes over the top. Bake the casserole for 2 hours or until the potatoes are tender.

Makes 6 servings.

From “The Casserole Queens Cookbook” by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock


1 head cabbage, shredded
4 to 6 teaspoons pickling salt (non-iodized)

Pack the cabbage into 4-6 sterilized quart jars. Add 1 teaspoon of pickling salt to each jar and cover with water. Place the lid and bands on the jars and close as tightly as you can by hand. you might want to place your jars on a baking sheet or in a shallow dish, because during the fermenting process the lids will loosen and juice will run down the sides of the jars. this is why you don’t seal them completely airtight as you do when you are canning. Store in a dry dark place to ferment for 3 weeks. If you do not have a basement, use a pantry or cover them with a towel.

Makes 4-6 quarts.

From “The Casserole Queens Cookbook” by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock


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