NORTHWOODS COOKS: Cozy up with a hearty hotdish

Church cookbooks are a wonderful source for casseroles, known by many midwesterners as hotdishes..

Tater tot hotdish is easy to make and something the whole family will enjoy. This dish can be varied by adding mixed vegetables instead of corn or spiced up with taco seasoning. (Adobe Stock)
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When the temperatures plummet and a cold wind blows, nothing says comfort like a cozy casserole. Church gatherings throughout the midwest always included a wide variety of casseroles, which most of the women who brought them called hotdishes.

At Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural DeLamere, N.D., where my dad was pastor for more than 20 years, every potluck could be counted on to have a wide variety of hotdishes. There was always tater tot hotdish, the most popular with the kids. Other standards were tuna hotdish with a topping of crushed potato chips, a bean hotdish, scalloped potatoes and ham and at least one hamburger hotdish.

The first year my sister-in-law Linh, who grew up in Portland, Ore., attended one of their potlucks, she said it was like being in Lake Wobegon. In addition to the hotdishes, there was an assortment of salads and at least one that included jello with fruit. To top off the meal, there were plates of homemade bars and cookies.

Here are some of those hotdish recipes from the Immanuel Lutheran Church cookbook.


Tater Tot Hotdish

Cover the bottom of a pan with hamburger. Cover the hamburger with slices of onion. Cover the hamburger with a layer of corn or mixed vegetables. Pour 1 can of chicken soup mixed with 1/2 cup of water on top, then cover with tater tots. Bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour.

Tuna Hot Dish

8-oz. package noodles

1 can mushroom soup

1 can flaked tuna

3 Tbsp. chopped green pepper


1 hard boiled egg, sliced

1/4 cup diced celery

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup crushed potato chips

Boil noodles and drain. Mix with the remaining ingredients in a casserole dish. Place crushed potato chips on top and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Bean Casserole

1 can kidney beans


1 can lima beans

1 can butter beans

1 can pork and beans

1/2 pound bacon, fried

2 large onions, diced

1 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. dried mustard

1/2 cup vinegar

3/4 cup brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

6 cups thinly sliced potatoes

2 Tbsp. flour

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 cups milk

1 can cream of celery soup

2 cups diced ham

3 Tbsp. butter

Put potatoes in a 3-quart dish. Mix flour, pepper and milk and pour over potatoes. Stir in onions, soup and ham. Dot butter on top. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Let stand 10 minutes to cool.

Easy Hamburger Hotdish

1-1/2 pounds ground beef

1 can any cream soup

1 soup can water

1 cup rice

8 slices cheese

Place uncooked hamburger in greased baking dish. Sprinkle with rice. Mix soup and water together and pour over mixture. Lay slices of cheese over top and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Scalloped Corn

1 can cream corn

1 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 stack saltine crackers, crushed

Mix ingredients together. Place in a buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Hash Brown Casserole

2 pounds hash browns

3/4 cup margarine, divided

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 can cream of chicken soup.

1 pint sour cream

2 cups cheddar cheese

2 cups crushed corn flakes

Mix ingredients together, saving 1/4 cup melted margarine to mix with corn flakes for topping. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour

Readers are invited to submit four to five of their favorite recipes to enjoy, along with a note about what makes them special. Send recipes to or by mail to the Park Rapids Enterprise, 203 Henrietta Ave. North, Park Rapids, MN 56470 and they may appear in a future issue.

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Church potlucks traditionally featured a wide array of hot dishes. This week's recipes are from the congregation cookbook of Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural DeLamere, N.D. Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise

Related Topics: FOOD
Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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