Thursday, November 19, 2020

Hashbrown Potato Casserole from a Virtual #FarmFoodTour

Being a city girl who grew up visiting her grandparent’s farm, I got a real kick out of the #FarmFoodTour trips I’ve experienced in the past few years. Thanks to the Kansas Soybean Commission, Kansas Farm Bureau, and Kansas Pork Association, I’ve traveled around our state learning what it takes to be a farmer in the 21st century. 

This year, because of the pandemic, I participated in a virtual farm visit with Amanda Welch of Meier Dairy in Palmer, Kansas. (Everyone calls her Mandy, except for her husband.) She and her brother are fifth-generation dairy farmers, milking 626 cows for the wholesale market. 

Mandy oversees a 24/7 operation where the cows are milked by robots. Yep, robots! Turns out cows are creatures of habit. Once they learn when and where to go for milking, they will go there every day at the same time. The robot scans each cow’s udder, connects to the teats, gets the milk, and then waits for the next cow to show up. 

From 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, Mandy works at training new cows on how the system works, plus makes sure everything is operating smoothly. She is also mom to two boys, 14-year-old Jaxon and 10-year-old Max. Her husband, Kent, works for an area manufacturing company. 
Her favorite time of day is at 4 a.m. The farm is quiet and peaceful, and she’s the only person around. It’s a time of peace before 6:30 a.m. arrives and she has to get her sons up and off to school.

Mandy told me, “My lifestyle isn't easy. I struggle every single day to find balance. I love what I do but it's both physically and mentally demanding. I hope that by challenging myself every day to keep pushing that I am showing my kids the value in having a strong work ethic.”

Each time I visit with a farmer, I learn:

1. They take great pride in providing food not only for us in Kansas and the U.S., but around the globe.

2. They are a smart bunch considering all of the technology necessary to work in agriculture.

3. No matter the size, pretty much all farms are family farms. Some even support multiple families.

4. Most important, they care a great deal about the land and animals they oversee.

“The biggest misconception about dairy farming, in my opinion, is that the animals are mistreated,” Mandy shared. “The care that goes into making sure that the cows are not only comfortable but as healthy as can be is a dairy farmer's number one concern.” 

On past trips, I’ve always looked for a recipe to share, and this time was no exception. Mandy gave me hers for Hashbrown Potato Casserole—though her family calls them Cheesy Taters. 

She said, “This is one of our family's favorite recipes! It calls for lots of dairy products which is a huge plus!”

This dish is easy to make and creates a creamy, cheesy, tasty casserole I think could replace mac and cheese. The only change I made to the recipe was adding chipotle chili powder to give it a little kick. It was wonderful! 

The next time you grab the milk carton, open a cup of yogurt or slice some cheese, think of Mandy hard at work so you can enjoy what Kansas dairy farmers have to offer.

Yield: 12 to 14
Author: Linda Ditch
Mandy Welch’s Hashbrown Potato Casserole

Mandy Welch’s Hashbrown Potato Casserole

A creamy, cheesy side dish that can give mac and cheese a run for its money.


  • 2 1-pound packages hashbrowns
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cartons (8-ounces each) sour cream
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon McCormick Chipotle Chile Powder (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Mix together the butter, soup, cheese, and sour cream. Stir in the hashbrowns, and then pour the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish that is coated with non-stick spray.
  2. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the center is hot and the edges are brown.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Covid Crumble

While watching TV last night, I was struck by how living during a pandemic has become part of our “normal” life now. People in commercials are wearing masks, washing their hands, and social distancing. The new season of the most popular shows is starting (Yay, the Chicago 3 are back!) and they all address living in COVID times. 

How has the virus changed your life? I had a freezer stuffed with bags of fruit bought because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find fresh. Since that fear didn’t come to pass, I needed to find a way to use those bags of cherries, blueberries, and peaches.

Introducing Covid Crumble. This simple dessert (or breakfast!) can be made with just about any fruit, frozen or fresh. It was inspired by a recipe I found for Rhubarb Crisp in Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch.


One of the greatest joys in life is finding an author who speaks to your heart. Susan Branch does that for me. I remember when her first book Heart of the Home hit the bestseller lists in the 1980s. Honestly, her style didn’t fit mine, so I didn’t pay it a lot of attention. However, a couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of Martha’s Vineyard, which is one of three autobiographical books she created from the diaries she kept throughout her life, and I was completely inspired by her words and drawings. 

👈 I love how she hand letters each word and her illustrations are beautiful. 

Now I’ve read all three autobiographies and am working my way through her cookbooks. Each brought me comfort during this unique time in history.

Pure joy! You can check out her blog here

Thanks to Susan, I now keep my own diary in a pretty notebook, with my thoughts and inspiration from others written with colorful Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pens, which don’t bleed through the paper. 

I posted the recipe for my popular Breakfast Crumble a few years ago.  This one caught my attention because it uses almond flour instead of plain flour. It also has instant tapioca as a thickener, which is an old-school trick my grandmother utilized. I often use this method when making pies. 

So far, I’ve made Covid Crumble using apples, blueberries, peaches and cherries. Each tasted great, especially topped with a little vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or even a splash of milk (my dad’s favorite trick.)

Yield: 4 to 6
Author: Linda Ditch
Covid Crumble

Covid Crumble

Adapted from a recipe found in Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch, this dessert (or breakfast!) makes use of those bags of frozen fruit stored in the freezer. Fresh fruit also works well.


  • 6 cups fruit of choice, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant tapioca
  • Pinch of salt
  • For topping:
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the fruit, sugar, tapioca and salt. (You don’t have to thaw frozen fruit first.) Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking dish or individual ramekins with non-stick spray and place on a foil-lined tray. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, add all of the topping ingredients except for the butter. Stir to combine. Add the butter and, using your fingers, work it into the dry ingredients until it’s combined and crumbly.
  4. Pour the fruit into the baking dish, and then top with the topping mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is hot and bubbly.
  5. Serve warm topped with ice cream, whipped cream, or a splash of milk.


You don't need to thaw the frozen fruit before using.

Created using The Recipes Generator

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Easy Holiday Blondies Recipe

Have you blown through all your Halloween candy yet? Considering the week we’re going through (#Election2020), I’m surprised there are still some pieces left in my candy bowl. 

Grab what candy you have—or pick-up your favorites in the grocery check-out line—and bake a batch of these Holiday Blondies. This cookie bar/brownie hybrid recipe was inspired by one featured on the Mystery Lovers Kitchen website. However, I think this dessert will be useful for any holiday considering how candy companies create goodies to fit the seasons. 

This recipe is easy to put together and one the kids will devour. There are even healthy elements to it (oatmeal, peanut butter, dried cranberries, nuts) to help balance the candy sweetness.

I will serve Holiday Blondies alongside the pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. And, since the normal holiday gatherings will be somewhat limited this year, I also plan to give pans of these tasty treats as gifts. 

Yield: 18-24 depending on size
Author: Linda Ditch
Holiday Blondies

Holiday Blondies

Use holiday candies to create a tasty sweet treat for any season.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups candy (chopped bars or individual pieces, such as M&Ms)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or nut of choice)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and oatmeal. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, measure out the candy pieces, cranberries, and chopped pecans. Set aside.
  4. Put the butter and sugars into a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer, cream the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Then pour in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Fold in the candy-cranberry-nut mixture.
  6. Spoon the batter into the baking dish. It is quite stiff, so spray the back of a spatula or large spoon with non-stick spray to help you spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan. Sprinkle the top with extra candy pieces and nuts, if desired, pressing them into the batter.
  7. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are brown. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.


Created using The Recipes Generator