16 oz. sour cream (can use low fat)

1 c. chicken broth (low/no sodium)

1 c. milk

2 T. butter

3 T. cornstarch

3 c. grated cheese, divided

30-32 oz. hash browns

1 small onion, finely chopped or grated (optional)

5-6 oz. package bacon bits (optional)

½ t. salt (or to taste)

1 t. black pepper (or to taste) - 40 grinds

1 t. garlic powder (or to taste) - 40 grinds

Mix broth, milk, and cornstarch in a medium sauce pan. Add butter and cook over medium heat. Allow to boil 2-3 minutes until thickened. Cool briefly (or completely). This is the cream sauce that replaces the condensed soup in a typical recipe. Cream sauce can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease 9”×13” casserole dish.

Combine sour cream, cream sauce, 2 c. cheese, bacon bits (if using), and spices. Mix well.

Fold in hash browns until all potato pieces are coated.

Spread potato mixture into prepared pan and top with remaining 1 c. cheese.

Bake 45-60 minutes until edges are golden. Rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Variations:

Add 1 lb. of browned and drained ground beef, turkey, or sausage.

Add diced chilis or jalapenos to taste.

Make a crunchy topping with 1 c. bread, cracker, or potato chip crumbs and 1-2 T. melted butter.