NORTHWOODS COOKS: Local hot dishes warm up chilly spring days

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A delicious, homemade, sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping is the perfect side dish for Easter dinner. It pairs well with either ham or turkey.

With cold and snow lingering into Easter weekend, there is still time to enjoy a Minnesota hot dish.

Area residents submitted hotdish recipes to the Park Rapids Area Library in anticipation of a visit by “Minnesota Hot Dish Heaven Mysteries” author Jeanne Cooney. Although her visit that was scheduled for Thursday was canceled due to travel issues following the recent snow storm, here are four hotdish recipes to sample at home.

Sweet Potato Casserole 

From the kitchen of Mary Niklaus 

2 lbs. sweet potatoes


2 large eggs 2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 tsp. salt divided

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 2 Tbsp. butter melted cooled

1/4 cup chopped pecans Butter a 2-quart casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potatoes. Cook in a pot with water until soft. Once potatoes are cooked, drain and mash. Add butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs. Mix well. Using a whisk helps. Spread potato mixture in prepared casserole dish and set aside. In another mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt and nuts. Add melted butter and stir with a fork until it forms crumbly dough. Sprinkle the topping over the mashed potatoes. Bake the casserole for 25 minutes. If desired, add mini marshmallows. Place the casserole back in the oven and bake until the marshmallows are toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool before serving.

Man Quiche 

From the kitchen of Jan Herbert 

Hugely popular with men!


1 batch of bread dough from bread machine, cut into bite size bits

2 cups mozzarella

1 can black olives, cut

1/2 to 1 cup deli ham, cut in 1/2-inch squares

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. garlic chopped

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. basil


1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and put in a bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Bean Hot Dish 

From the kitchen of Joy Horejsi 

28-oz. can Bush’s beans

1 can kidney beans

1 small can lima beans


1 cup diced onions

1/2 lb. hamburger

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup ketchup

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1/2 lb. diced bacon

Salt & pepper to taste

Fry onions, bacon and hamburger. Drain. Mix all ingredients and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.


Chicken Ritz Casserole 

From the kitchen of Jean Hendrickson 

6 chicken breasts cooked and cubed 1 bag egg noodles cooked and drained 2 cans low sodium cream of chicken soup 12-oz. container of sour cream 1 roll of low sodium Ritz crackers crushed and mixed with 1 stick of melted, no salt butter In a 9-by-13-inch cake pan, make a layer of noodles. Mix chicken, soup and sour cream and layer over noodles. Top with Ritz crackers. Heat through at 350 degrees about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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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