Christmas came to The Spiced Life this May! A friend of my dad’s, who graduated high school with him, passed my card onto his daughter, who works for The Harvard Common Press. She has my pre-mom dream job, she works in the cookbook division, where she also worked on their cooking blog (Harvard Common Press was purchased in 2016, so I no longer have a link to her blog). She contacted me after getting my info from her dad and asked if I would like to look at the titles put out by her employer and choose some to review.
What do you guys think? I probably could have put double the number of books on the list I sent to her (after she sent me a brochure with their titles), and as it was I probably stretched the bounds of good business manners with the number I asked for.
My name is Laura and I have a cookbook
problem obsession collection.
A moment for the fine print: I did not receive any compensation for this review other than the book itself. I did not promise them a good review; this review is a 100% honest reflection of my opinion of the book.
One of the books I was most excited to receive, and therefore turned to quickly, was Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles (NYM Series). You can read more about the Not Your Mother’s series of cookbooks here; I have owned various slow cooker and rice cooker versions, and although I liked them I don’t use a slow cooker really and my rice cooker broke ages ago and so they found their way out of my life. But casseroles? Now casseroles I love and make–no appliances necessary.
Durand’s (who is the managing editor of TheKitchn) collection of casseroles is not exhaustive or historic, but rather a (large, 200 recipes) sampling of contemporary, seasonal casseroles that are simple enough for everyday (for the most part), yet do not rely on processed ingredients such as canned soups. She also thinks of her recipes as blueprints that are not set in stone–I for one love cookbook authors that encourage you to deconstruct their recipes to some extent since I am forever changing what I like or don’t like about a recipe. It makes me feel like I could chat with them about how I made their dish without it offending them.
Although I started with a savory dinner casserole, my favorite section of the book is the breakfast chapter. It has many more ideas for make ahead breakfast casseroles, savory and sweet, than I have ever seen in a cookbook. I love make ahead breakfasts. First on my list will be the Baked Buttermilk Pancakes. Or the Baked Steel Cut Oats with Dried Fruit, Coconut and Spices. Or the Lemon Brioche French Toast. (Can you tell I like the sweet ones?) As I write this I am wondering why did I start with the dinner casserole again?
Not to disparage the casserole I did make though. It satisfies my basic weeknight one pot dish requirements: it was easy, it was not at all boring, it was very tasty, and it tasted just as good or better as leftovers. I made the Spicy Mexican Bean & Rice Bake close to the original recipe. I used red bell pepper instead of green, a standard sub for me. I increased and added spices, typical. I increased the garlic and onions–also standard. I added zucchini. I used fire roasted (Muir Glen) tomatoes instead of plain. It is possible I used more cheese than called for (which is not reflected in the recipe as I wrote it). I also, due to the casserole dish I was using, generally increased the casserole by about half, also not reflected in the recipe below. Otherwise my changes are reflected in the recipe.
- olive oil, as needed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 t New Mexico chile powder
- 1 t ancho chile powder
- chipotle powder, to heat preference
- 2 t ground cumin
- 1 t Mexican oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- 2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained (use any beans you like)
- 1 15-oz can fire roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup sour cream, low fat or full fat
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 small zucchini, diced
- Tapatio hot sauce and sour cream for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 2 inch deep 9X13 casserole pan.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Add the diced zucchini and pepper and minced garlic. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the spices as well as salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Toss the cooked onion mixture in a large bowl with the rice, beans and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir in the cilantro and 1½ cups of the cheddar cheese.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream with the eggs. Stir this mixture into the onion, beans and rice mixture. Dump it into the prepared pan and spread it flat. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the casserole and bake for 1 hour, until bubbling and browning. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing. You will get perfect slices the next day, but the first day they will be a little soft, as is typical of most casseroles. Serve with sour cream and Tapatio hot sauce on the side.
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