If there’s anything more comforting than coming home to a freshly baked casserole and a jug of sweet tea, I don’t know what it is.  Casseroles are one of those things that are more than the sum of their parts, with a whole lotta love stirred in.  They are warm, soothing and fill you up just right.  They taste especially good after a hard day’s work.

When I heard about The Casserole Queens Cookbook, I added it to my Amazon wish list immediately.

Since these two lovely ladies live in Texas, I couldn’t resist.  And when Yankee Bobby Flay challenged them to a Casserole Throwdown, I was eager to see them conquer!  And boy, did they ever.  Their Chicken Pot Pie had him with his tail between his legs.  He couldn’t throw enough expensive and exotic ingredients into his casserole to beat these ladies.  They stick to the classic casserole recipes, but add just enough of a modern twist to make them even more delicious.

In case you’re wondering, the book does not rely heavily on condensed cream-of-something soups.  Some recipes do use it, and if you’re against that sort of thing, they provide recipes for homemade versions.

Their cookbook is full of delicious recipes that I couldn’t wait to make.  The book is divided into family pleasin’ recipes, casseroles with a gourmet touch, lighter casseroles, side dishes, breakfast bakes, and desserts.  I’ll let you guess which section I read first ;)

Once Sandy showed proper respect to Texas King Ranch Casserole (by not changing a single thing about the original recipe), I decided I trusted her enough to try the lighter Queen Ranch Casserole.  I absolutely loved this dish. Although, I have to say that my version was probably not considered ‘light’ due to my homemade chicken broth with a ½” layer of fat on top.  But delicious, it was!

We also enjoyed the Pork Chops with Sauerkraut baked in a bacon-lined pan, a little nod to the large Czech and German population in central Texas.  Since we’re Czech, we are a very sauerkraut-friendly family and gobbled it up.  And just last night, I put the Coq au Vin in the oven before we headed to the field to plant the first set of winter crops.  There’s nothing else I’d rather pull out of my oven after all that field work.  We piled it high over bowls of quinoa and ate it wordlessly.  I will be making this recipe again and again—it has the flavors of something that baked all day but only took 2 hours.

There are many other savory recipes I want to try (Valley-Style Arroz con Pollo, Boo-yah Bouillabaisse, Migas casserole, and Caramel Cinnamon Sweet Rolls, just to name a few), but I couldn’t wait any longer to dive into the dessert section.  A whole section of scrumptious desserts that only require 1 dish to make?!  Sign me up!  The Apple Gooey Butter Cake whispered sweet nothings in my ear, but in the end, I was charmed most by the Glazed Oatmeal Cake.  I knew I wanted to scale it down to make a smaller version (not that I couldn’t eat the whole 9 x 13” pan myself, mind you).

This is the best cake recipe I’ve made in a loooong time.  The tender cinnamon cake is topped with a crunchy frosting made of coconut, pecans and brown sugar that you broil in the oven.  The texture of the frosting alone will have you wanting to scrape it off the entire cake and straight into your mouth.

I fully recommend making the entire 9×13″ recipe from Crystal and Sandy, but if you would like a smaller version, I’ve scaled it down below.

Finally, a little tip to Bobby:  bless your heart for challenging Southern cooks, but you couldn’t beat a blind grandma with one arm at Southern cookin’.  Food just tastes better down here, but thanks for visiting us.  We hope ya had a real nice time. :)

Disclaimer: I received this cookbook for free to review. The opinions are all my own, and I really did make and enjoy many of their recipes.  Don’t believe me?—I’ll send you photos of my kitchen sink full of dirty dishes.  Then I’ll ask you to come wash them for me because I’m drowning in a sea of dirty dishes.

Glazed Oatmeal Cake

Glazed Oatmeal Cake

Makes 1 small 6" cake.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 6 tablespoons shortening, plus extra for pan
  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

For the frosting:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 6” round cake pan with shortening and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, add the rolled oats and hot water. Let sit while you make the rest of the cake.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together the 6 tablespoons of shortening and sugar. Cream very well, then add the egg and beat til combined.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together all remaining dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and powder). Add this to the creamed shortening mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add the oats and their soaking water and stir until just combined—do not overmix. Pour into the cake pan and bake on the center rack for 29-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Let cool completely before moving on.
  6. When ready to serve the cake, preheat the broiler to high. Combine the butter, brown sugar, milk and pecans in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut. Spread the frosting evenly over the cake, then place it about 4” from the broiler and broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping a very close eye on it to keep it from burning. The frosting should be deliciously crunchy and crisp. Enjoy!