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
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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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  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

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