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Donna, who was a runner-up in last year’s contest, wanted to develop a recipe that was creamy and crunchy to go with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. She went through five versions of her casserole before hitting on the perfect combination.

The finance director for the Children’s Advocacy Center in Bastrop, Donna works with a group that’s as close as family. They say they all gained 10-20 pounds for this contest, as they had to eat all of Donna’s “experiments.” Donna lives in Paige with her two cats and two dogs.

1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (divided)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 package (16 ounces) frozen corn, thawed and drained
1-2 jalapeños, minced (optional)
1 package (2.75 ounces) Pioneer Country Gravy Mix
2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk (divided)
2 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese (divided)
2 egg whites, whipped stiff
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package (6 ounces) Pioneer Yellow Cornbread or Sweet Yellow Corn Muffin Mix
3/4 cup hot or mild jalapeño jelly (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large cast iron or ovenproof skillet, sauté in 1/2 cup butter over medium heat onion, bell pepper, carrot and salt for 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add garlic, corn and jalapeños and cook 2 minutes.

Mix Pioneer Country Gravy Mix with 2 cups half-and-half or milk, whisking to blend, and add to skillet. Bring to boil and then turn off heat. Add 11/2 cups cheese and stir until combined. Fold in whipped egg whites. Adjust seasonings.

In small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup butter to boil. Add cornbread mix and stir until blended. Add 1 cup cheese. Drop cornbread mixture by teaspoons on top of corn mixture (leaving space between dollops). Bake for 30 minutes or until cornbread is lightly browned on top. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Heat jelly in microwave and drizzle over casserole, if desired. Serves 8-10.

Donna Deteau
, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative