By now winter has made hash of any standbys we have for comfort food. The middle days of February may hold bits of weak sunlight, rain, snow or sleet. It matters not. In the kitchen all is bleak and dreary. Tired of chicken and spaghetti, exhausted of bacon and eggs, leery of another package of mac & cheese, we check out any and all new cookbooks at the library, spend hours poring over photographs, ingredient lists and general descriptions that may or may not tell the true story. We check and double check the cupboards for on-hand items.

Throughout the years, we’ve come to seek out Taste of Home cookbooks. Gathering hundreds of reader’s favorite recipes, testing them and photographing the results, the staff up in Wisconsin, headed by Editor-in-Chief Catherine Cassidy, have perfected presenting perfect dishes.

The latest edition, Taste of Home Most Requested Recipes, contains “633 top-rated recipes our readers love”. This volume contains 26 recipes from Ohio contributors. It’s kind of a “from their kitchen to yours” by way of the large test kitchens at Taste of Home. So, chances are good the recipe will work and be tasty. Even with exceptions.

For instance, on page 394 a luscious looking photo of Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake is followed by this comment from a reader: “Excellent! Followed the recipe except that I added…and cut…also added…”

Actually, that’s the way it goes with a great recipe. It can take a bit of change for personal preferences and still work out well. We’ve seen just how that works as we sought to satisfy our craving for a change of pace, cooking wise. On page 230 of the new volume there is a recipe and photo for Sausage Hash Brown Bake. The food in the photo somehow looked familiar and the ingredient list seemed to yank on a memory lightbulb. Sure enough, that recipe took second place in our county fair pork dish of the day contest. When writing about it for this newspaper, we even marked the recipe as “very good, keep for home.”

So on a very dreary February day, we ate a very good casserole that we made exactly like the recipe except we “cut the recipe in half…used corn and mushrooms instead of…used refrigerated hash browns instead of…” Even with all that exception, it tasted just as good as at the fair.

This latest Taste of Home volume includes four special Icons marking recipes that are: 1. Fast Fix (30 minutes or less) 2. Slow Cooker 3.Five-Ingredient (or less) 4. Freeze It (freeze and reheat instructions included). As always, the book includes eleven sections ranging from appetizers, snacks, soups, sandwiches and salads to casseroles, mains and sides, breads and the most popular section-cakes/pies/cookies/candy.

So, if you’re in the same cooking muddy muddle, we recommend you head to the library and check out this new volume of Taste of Home Recipes Most Requested Recipes. If you’re planning a spring wedding, put it on the gift registry. It holds decades of kitchen heritage within its many pages. You might even recognize some of the contributor’s names.

Here’s our take on the sausage/hash brown dish. Just remember, you can make it with exceptions.

Sausage Hash Brown Casserole
  •  1 pound bulk sausage (we use Bob Evans mild)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • ½ can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • ½ cup dairy sour cream
  • ½ cup French onion chip dip
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup whole kernel corn
  • 1small can (4 oz.) mushroom pieces/stems, drained, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 oz. package refrigerated shredded hash browns, seasoned flavor

In skillet, cook sausage, breaking it up pretty fine over medium heat. Cook till done but not browned. Drain in paper towel-lined dish. Place it in a large mixing bowl with rest of ingredients including ¾ of the cheese. Mix well. (Reserve rest of cheese for topping.)

Spoon into lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until bubbly. Remove cover and bake for about 10 minutes longer to lightly brown top cheese.

Note: the original recipe called for double the ingredients, used green and red chopped sweet peppers instead of corn and mushrooms and used a bag of frozen hash browns.

Contact Connie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Box 61, Medway, OH 45341

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