Cookin’ with the Casserole Queens

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~post by Julie W.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since I first cooked with the Casserole Queens. A lot has changed since then. I have new glasses. I live with two rabbits. I can’t eat cheese. (I KNOW.) What has not changed, however, is how much I love a home cooked meal. Which means I was very happy when our Buyer dropped an advance copy of The Casserole Queens Make-A-Meal Cookbook on my desk.

There were quite a few options in this book for a dairy-free cook like me. The Ratatouille was particularly tempting, but ultimately I went with the Farro, Wild Mushroom and Walnut Casserole.

I consider myself fairly well versed in the world of grains and grain-like things. I worked at a food co-op for a while after college and got to know such tasty fellows as quinoa, spelt, and amaranth. But farro? I thought it was some kind of cheese at first. Nope. It’s wheat. And it is tasty. Chewier and nuttier than rice, it’s not unlike barley. I took one taste and started eating spoonfuls of it straight out of the rice cooker, which is another thing – I cooked it in a rice cooker. Which means farro and I are now BFFs.

The main ingredient in this casserole is shitake mushroom. Thanks to Wheatsville Co-op for hooking me up with some mighty fine organic shitakes, many of which were shaped like ears.

I have to confess something. I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but I’m not one to hide anything, so here goes. After I got the farro going and the mushrooms washed, I realized I was missing one key ingredient for casserole-making: a casserole dish. Like I said, a lot’s changed in two years. So this is where I’m going to pause and offer one key piece of advice to those embarking upon Casserole Queen adventures: make sure you pack a casserole dish.

Okay.

While the farro bubbled away in the rice cooker, I sliced and sauteed first the onion, then the mushrooms. The recipe calls for fresh sage and thyme, which smelled divine both on the cutting board and in the pan. The mushrooms cooked with a little white wine which made them tender and sweet – exactly how I prefer my little shrooms.

While all of this cooked, I snacked on the walnuts and dried cranberries waiting to be added to the mix. (I always appreciate a recipe that gives me something to nibble as I work.) It didn’t take long to get all of the elements together. The farro cooked up fast as did the mushrooms. I combined the cranberries, farro, shitakes and onions, sprinkled walnuts on top and my feast was ready to go.

Here’s the Before and After:

The finished product:

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This dish tasted like Thanksgiving. I loved it. Hearty, earthy and a little sweet – so delicious! I had leftovers for a week. This is going to be my go-to holiday side dish. Easy, affordable and filling, this is an easy crowd pleaser.

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The Casserole Queens Make-A-Meal Cookbook is available on our shelves Tuesday, August 20. The Queens themselves, Sandy Pollock and Crystal Cook, will be here at BookPeople to celebrate their new book on Wednesday, August 21 at 7pm. They’ll be mixing up their famous sangrias. Don’t miss it!

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