I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed family, friends, and FOOD! My Thanksgiving was very low-key, but it was nice to just relax and have a break from schoolwork. Since it was just my husband and I this year, I bought some sliced pre-cooked honey baked ham and cold asparagus salad from a local market and made roasted acorn squash and cheesy hash brown casserole. Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole is a dish my mom always made for Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My mom is the Queen of super easy recipes that taste incredible, and this one is no exception! I usually make it either for Thanksgiving or Christmas and for Easter since it goes especially well with ham. I believe my mom originally got the recipe out of a newspaper or magazine, then it was written on a piece of paper for many years, and most recently saved on my computer even though we both have it memorized! This year, I made it a little different since my diet has changed a little, but the basic ingredients remained the same.
The day before Thanksgiving, I made a shopping trip to Orlando and spent quite a bit of time at Ikea, the Millenia mall, and Whole Foods. I had never actually been to a Whole Foods before even though I had heard wonderful things about it. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement! I have such a hard time finding good gluten-free food options and other healthy food choices locally, but Whole Foods is like a superstore of healthy food and groceries. I was like a kid in a candy store! As I was leaving, I noticed a restaurant next door called Hot Krust Panini Kitchen that advertised gluten-free options, so I stopped in to grab a bite to eat. I am really impressed with this restaurant concept. It is a “fast food” place in which you order at the counter and then they bring your order to you when it is ready, but they do not use processed meats, instead they use in-house roasted meats, they bake their potato and sweet potato fries instead of frying them, and they offer gluten-free bread. I ordered the BBQ Chicken panini with gluten-free multi-grain bread and sweet potato fries, and it was delicious! I really hope this concept catches on and there will be one closer to me soon. It was fantastic and it did not give me any digestive issues like most sandwich joints do.
So, back to Thanksgiving, I thought I would share my mom’s recipe for Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole with you and note the slight changes I made to make it a little healthier. Most people would think it is very unhealthy because it has LOTS of butter, cheese and sour cream, but in fact, the recent research is showing these ingredients are healthy for you especially if you use real ingredients without preservatives, in other words, grass-fed butter (raw is even better), sour cream with cultured cream as the only ingredient, etc. However, this casserole is very rich and decadent so I like to save it for special occasions, and it is also an easy, fast option to bring to potluck events (and ALWAYS a big hit!).
I will add that these hash browns taste even better re-heated the next morning with eggs for breakfast. The original basic recipe is at the bottom of this page and directly below are the substitutions I made to make it a little healthier (all of these ingredients, except the local butter, were found at Whole Foods):
2 bags (16 ozs. each) Alexia organic frozen hash browns
local grass-fed raw butter
2 boxes (12 ozs. each) Pacific organic cream of mushroom condensed soup
8 oz. block of 365 (Whole Foods brand) sharp cheddar cheese shredded in food processor
12 ozs. sour cream
Kettle organic sea salt potato chips