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'200 Casseroles' and '200 Soups' for cooks of all ages

By Joseph Irvine

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 1 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

"200 SOUPS" by Madge Baird, Gibbs Smith, $12.99, 208 pages; "200 CASSEROLES," by Stephanie Ashcraft and Jane Eyring, Gibbs Smith, $12.99, 208 pages

"200 Soups" by Madge Baird and "200 Casseroles" by Stephanie Ashcraft and Janet Eyring are cookbooks designed to cover a broad range of recipes, from foreign cuisine to American classics. There is something for everyone, whether you are in a rush and only have minutes to throw something simple together, or are planning on whipping up a complex culinary masterpiece.

Both books are nicely bound with a jacketless hardcover exterior and concealed spiral bound interior. Prefacing each collection is a list of helpful hints and suggestions for preparing soups and casseroles. An index is provided, conveniently listing various ingredients and the recipes they appear in, followed by a metric conversion chart on the back covers.

The recipes are grouped in an intuitive manner, listing all of the breakfast casseroles in one section, for example, or poultry soups in another. Each page prominently lists the number of servings the dish provides, along with occasional suggestions for alterations to the traditional preparation.

A favorite soup involves variations on cheese and potatoes. The "Cheesy Potato Soup" recipe fits this bill, while providing additional unique variations on the theme with selections such as "Cheesy Tuna Chowder" which contains potatoes as a prominent ingredient. In addition to home-spun classics, non-traditional entries such as "Chicken Noodleless Soup" or "Autumn Chicken Stew in a Pumpkin" should be crowd-pleasers for those bundling up in blankets as wintry weather starts to descend.

In casseroles, the first recipe to catch my eye was the "Bacon and Hash Brown Heaven" which instantly helped me reminisce on a favorite dish my mother prepares for special occasions. A fun recipe to try is "Aunt Leara's Zucchini Boats." This cute casserole is served inside a hollowed out zucchini, allowing the cook to take artistic liberties with presentation in addition to traditional taste.

By uniquely focusing on just soups and casseroles allows both books to set themselves apart. By focusing so specifically on their respective dishes, a cook will be able to drill down and experience a much richer collection than they would find in a standard cookbook without a specific theme.

While pictures are absent, the ability to browse without having a specific goal in mind, or search for a recipe in the index based on an ingredient you want to use, such as potatoes, adds tremendous value to these publications.

Joseph Irvine enjoys writing as part of his entrepreneurial pursuits. Currently contracting for Salt Lake area-based ClearPlay, he also writes charter school admissions lottery software, made available through www.edulottery.com.