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Family Favorites - Cornflake Casserole

Holiday meals are seldom innovative at my house.  My family knows what they like and expects to see their favorites on the table at holiday time from year to year. 

One tried and true favorite is a casserole of Hash Brown potatoes in a gooey sauce of sour cream, cheese and canned soup.  Oh, and it’s topped with buttered cornflake crumbs.

Not that healthful maybe, but these potatoes taste really good all the same.  My sister-in-law gave me this recipe after working out a close homemade version of a favorite side dish at Cracker Barrell.  I tried it and found it is almost as reliably favored by picky eaters as, say Macaroni and Cheese.  It is also easy to put together and gets along well with other dishes competing for oven space. This casserole can be cooked at a variety of different temperatures, just leave it in long enough for the contents to get bubbly and the top to begin browning.

It’s  ease of preparation and wide appeal makes this potato casserole great for a special occasion buffet or a potluck dinner where the preferences of many are unknown and the goal is to simply serve a tasty dish that is a crowd pleaser.  It makes great holiday fare and leftovers, if you have any, are as welcome at breakfast time as at lunch or dinner.   So here’s our recipe for what my children affectionately call Cornflake Casserole. 

Cornflake Casserole

1 (32-ounce) package southern style hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/4 cup melted butter (or milk)
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream (use lite sour cream, if desired)
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cups crushed corn flakes
1/4 cup melted butter

Serves 12.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread thawed potatoes in a well-greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Mix the next five ingredients and pour over potatoes. Fold into potatoes.

Combine crushed corn flakes with 1/4 cup melted butter and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 1 hour or until hot and golden brown.


Tea Sweetened Kumquats

Cute Fruit

Aren’t they cute? In appearance Kumquats resemble miniature oranges. They are bite-sized and a cheery golden orange color. Shaped like tiny suns they hint of warmth and light. They are like the memory of a dream in this cool grey stretch of springtime in the Pacific Northwest.

The surprise comes when you embrace the dream, throw caution to the wind and pop this irresistible little fruit into your mouth, whole. First there is the slightly bitter blush of citrus rind on your tongue. Then, as you boldly bite down, a tart pucker tugs at your cheeks and the sour taste of the juice registers in your mouth. Pow!

Kumquats constitute a tiny adventure all their own. Depending on your personal sense of taste you are likely to be either deterred or delighted by the experience of this diminutive fruit. For my part I was thrilled to discover the newness of kumquats, a fruit I had never even seen until a few years ago. Despite my delight I have never ventured to buy more than a handful of kumquats when I have stumbled across them at the market. While they are quite interesting I would not describe them as delicious. Fresh from the produce aisle they are more a late winter curiosity than a scrumptious flavor I am eager to indulge in.

Sunny Simplicity

Last week I ran across another bright display of kumquats on the produce aisle. Once again I was charmed by the optimistic brightness of this plucky little fruit. I grabbed a large handful determined to discover a recipe that would enhance the kumquat’s sunny assets.

In a quick google search I learned that kumquats have long been cultivated and favored in Japan. Turning to my Japanese influenced cookbooks I found a simple recipe for kumquats in Bettina Vitell’s “The World in a Bowl of Tea.” It was beautiful in it’s simplicity but I could not resist tweaking it. Here is my tea-infused version of her recipe. I hope it inspires you to bring more of this promising little fruit to your own table.

Tea Sweetened Kumquats

2 teabags (I used peach flavored white tea)
2 cups water
½ cup sugar

Poke each kumquat a couple of times with a skewer.

Place kumquats in a saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a low boil and simmer for ten minutes. Drain. Set aside.

Using the teabags, brew two cups of tea according to package directions. Pour the tea into the saucepan and stir in the sugar.

Over low heat, bring the tea mixture to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Return the kumquats to the saucepan and loosely cover.

Simmer kumquats for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Store kumquats in a glass container with the cooking liquid. Refrigerate until chilled through. Drain the marinade before serving and reserve it for another batch, if desired. Serve the drained kumquats in a small decorative bowl.


Bourbon Spiced Pecans

Recipe Traditions

With March Madness behind us and May fast approaching what is on the minds of folks in the Bluegrass State? Derby Day, of course.

The Kentucky Derby is run the first Saturday in May and with spring blossoming across the state to dress the landscape in its Sunday best, it’s no wonder that many take pause to celebrate.

Like with most celebrations, there is no scarcity of recipes tradition has linked to the event. I have a collection of Kentucky cookbooks and most include recipes suggestions for Derby Day. These include variations on Kentucky Burgoo, Hot Browns, Country Ham with Biscuits, Cheese Grits, Mint Juleps and, of course, Bluegrass Pie, Thoroughbred Pie or other euphemistic desserts intended to produce a pie at least similar to the famous Kern's Kitchen Derby Pie.

A Taste of Kentucky Hospitality

All delicious, these recipes can easily seem like too much for a smaller take on Derby Day at my adopted home in the Pacific Northwest. Still, I crave at least a small reminder to mark the season even if I am not attending an official Derby celebration.

This recipe is just the thing for introducing a touch of Kentucky hospitality to any occasion. Clipped from a newspaper some years ago, this easy recipe can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container. Served as a snack these tasty nibbles offer an interesting mixture of sugar and spice that reflects the flavors of the region.

Bourbon Spiced Pecans

3 ounces bourbon (6 Tablespoons)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound pecan halves (4 cups)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Simmer the bourbon in a small saucepan to reduce it by half, to 3 Tablespoons.

In a bowl, combine the warm bourbon, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and oil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Blanch the pecans in the boiling water for one minute. Drain the pecans. Add the hot pecans to the bourbon mixture and toss. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour any of the remaining bourbon mixture in the bowl over them.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring the nuts every 10 minutes. When the nuts are lightly browned and the liquid has evaporated, remove the nuts from the oven and transfer them to a clean bowl.

Combine the cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and cumin, mixing well. Sprinkle this mixture over the nuts and toss.

Transfer the nuts to a clean nonstick baking sheet and allow them to cool and dry. Break up any clumps and store in an airtight container.