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Casserole Queens accept challenge, make Cannoli Casserole

11/18/2013 8:00 AM

11/18/2013 5:48 PM

A few weeks ago, my co-host Kimberly Stern and I were interviewing the Casserole Queens on our local radio show, Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen. We were talking about them visiting Kansas City for the Hen House Culinary Celebration.

It’s always great to talk with the Casserole Queens, “part kitsch, part dish, all apron.” We would like you to meet them: Sandy Pollock and Crystal Cook.

They are New York Times best-selling authors and Pollock and Cook have taken their fresh-from-scratch meals, from their home in Austin, Texas, to the stages of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, the TODAY Show, QVC and more.

In between speaking engagements, book signings and cooking demonstrations, they have also earned a whole new legion of fans as monthly contributors to Woman’s Day Magazine and as the stars of their own web-based series Hungry on the YouTube Food Channel.

If you have listened in the past to our radio show, you know, Kim and I always like to give our guests a “challenge.” Of course, you know I am obsessed with cannolis, so I challenged the ladies to create a cannoli casserole. I was very excited when they agreed and couldn’t wait to try their creation.

They arrived in Kansas City and I met them at the Overland Park Convention Center. I went behind the scenes in the kitchen and was watching them prepare for their casserole demo. Of course, since this was all about The Hen House Market, they were preparing some chicken casseroles.

All of a sudden, I noticed some familiar ingredients on the prep table, including ricotta cheese, sugar, chocolate bits and orange zest. I looked up at the women and they both had the biggest smile on their faces, and at the same time they both shouted, “Jasper, we took your ‘Cannoli Challenge’ and we’re doing it today on the culinary stage.”

I was elated and truly overwhelmed at this grand gesture from two very fine and notable culinary queens.

The women actually made a couple of casseroles and then, for dessert, they showcased their creation, the Cannoli Casserole. They made a chocolate cookie bar and placed it in the casserole and baked it. When cool, they added a cannoli filling and finished with whip cream and shaved almonds. A masterpiece created just for me.

I had to go do a live radio show segment at the celebration, but already I knew my day was complete, made complete by another challenge accepted and carried out right there on the stage. It was a great end to a fine day with my friends, the Casserole Queens.

Make sure you check out the Casserole Queens and their cookbooks, follow them online at Facebook and Twitter and of course through their website at

CasseroleQueens.com

,where they showcased the Great Cannoli Challenge with awonderful blog and pictures from the day.

And so, Mille Grazie to Pollock and Cook! I so appreciated them creating this wonderful casserole and also for always being such wonderful guests on our radio show. I am sure you will enjoy their creation. Mangia Bene Amici!

Casserole Queens Cannoli Bars 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta, at room temperature 2 cups granulated sugar 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips 1 recipe Cannoli Cream (see recipe below) 5 maraschino cherries (more if you love’em) 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted 2 cups whipped cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and ricotta on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, orange zest and vanilla; beat until blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, add the eggs and beat until blended. On low speed, add the flour until mixture comes together. Pour in the chocolate chips and continue mixing until just incorporated. Pour cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake cookie bars for 45 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Allow bars to cool completely. Frost the top of the cookie bars with the Cannoli Cream, top with whipped cream, almonds and cherries.

Casserole Queens Cannoli Cream 3 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese 1 cup confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon orange zest 2 ounces chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, confectioners’ sugar and orange zest until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips until incorporated evenly into cannoli cream.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.

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