Gather round for these crowd-pleasing eats

When the hectic pace of life tries to overwhelm, sometimes we find the need to step back, refocus and take care of ourselves. Often that includes sitting down with the family who loves us for a hot meal of our favorite comfort foods. Give these tried-and-true recipes a taste sometime — the culinary comfort they offer might remind you of hugs from Grandma.

Alfredo Tater Tot Casserole

6 slices bacon, chopped
Two 14 1/2-ounce jars light Alfredo pasta sauce
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
32-ounce package frozen tater tots
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a skillet cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain well on paper towels.

In a large bowl combine Alfredo pasta sauce, green onions, parsley, garlic and dry mustard. Stir in tater tots, chicken and chopped bacon. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 50 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Top with tomatoes and additional parsley, if desired. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Honey-Chipotle Glazed Ham

1 fully cooked bone-in ham, 8 to 10 pounds
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 1/4 cups ginger ale
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place ham on a rack in a roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score surface of ham with 1/2-inch-deep cuts in a diamond pattern. Bake, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.

To prepare glaze: In a small saucepan, mix brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar and ginger ale. Bring to a gentle boil; cook until mixture is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in chipotle peppers, garlic, Dijon mustard, cinnamon and cumin. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Reserve 1 cup mixture to use for glaze; keep warm.

Brush ham with some of the remaining glaze. Bake, uncovered, until a thermometer reads 145 degrees, about 30 minutes, brushing twice with additional glaze. When ready to serve, brush with remaining sauce.

Grandma's Potato Salad

3 to 3 1/2 pounds red or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 10 medium potatoes)
6 large eggs, hard-boiled
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup mayonnaise or more as desired
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Additional hard-boiled egg, sliced for garnish
Green onion tops, cut for optional garnish

In a large kettle, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cool. Peel potatoes if desired, then cut into chunks. Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Set yolks aside. Chop egg whites and add to potatoes and onion.

In a small bowl, mash egg yolks. Stir in mayonnaise, evaporated milk, white vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over potatoes and stir well. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Spoon into a serving bowl. Garnish with egg slices and chopped green onion tops. Chill until time to serve.

Ham & Veggies Casserole

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked ham, diced
10-ounce package frozen peas
4-ounce can mushroom pieces, drained
1 cup frozen crinkle-cut carrots
14-ounce package refrigerated pie crusts

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Add milk, thyme and chicken bouillon then cook, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in ham and vegetables and cook 5 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated. Spoon into a lightly greased 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish or individual ramekins as pictured.

Unroll each pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Cut pie crusts into 1 1/4-inch-wide strips. Arrange strips in a lattice design over ham mixture. Bake for 40 minutes or until crust is browned and filling is bubbly. If baking in ramekins, check at 30 minutes for doneness.


Pineapple Sheet Cake

For cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup English walnuts, finely chopped
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
20-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained

For icing:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup English walnuts, chopped

In a large bowl, combine all cake ingredients; beat until smooth. Pour into a greased 15-inch by 10-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool well before icing.

For icing: In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until creamy. Spread over cake and sprinkle lightly with nuts.


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