Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tater Tot Casserole

Anyone remember this?

Randy: Napoleon, give me some of your tots.
Napoleon Dynamite: No, go find your own.
Randy: Come on, give me some of your tots.
Napoleon Dynamite: No, I'm freakin' starving! I didn't get to eat anything today.

I just can't say (or in this case, type) the words "Tater Tot" without thinking of Napoleon Dynamite. I just had to get that out of the way before typing "tater tot" 15 times in the following post.

I'm not going to claim that Tater Tot Casserole is the classiest meal that I've prepared in my kitchen, nor is it the healthiest. But let's not talk about what the Tot is not and let's examine what this casserole is... quick, easy, delicious, and (fun fact) the first casserole I ever made. I was around the age of 6. It was in a Cooking with Kids cookbook. This casserole also gave me the chance to use up the rest of a bag of economy size tater tots that I got a deal on 3 months ago and they're still sitting in the back of my freezer taking up space.

So here's the blueprint for constructing this casserole.

First, put 1 1/2 lbs. of uncooked, lean ground beef in the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish. You'll want to use lean beef because you're not browning it in the skillet and then draining off the fat. The fat stays in this casserole. Oh, and I should mention that I sprinkled a little salt over the beef.

Top with 1/2 of a chopped onion

And 4 cups of frozen, mixed veggies. I salt and pepper this layer too. Yes, I know that too much sodium leads to high blood pressure. I also know that if the dish is under seasoned, my husband is going to cover it with salt anyway. Tonight I beat him to the punch.

Now comes the cream soup layer. You can use cream of mushroom, cream of chicken...pretty much any cream soup that you have in your pantry. I found a cream of chicken and a cheddar cheese soup. I mixed them together and spread them over the veggie layer. I'm pretty sure the cheese soup "made" this casserole. It was even better than I remember from my childhood.

Now the step that conjures nostalgic recollections from my elementary school cafeteria of sweet grandma-type ladies in hairnets and blowing bubbles in my chocolate milk carton with a straw...arrange those tater tots!

Pop it in a 375 degree oven and go about your life for an hour. Then serve up this dinner and watch your family devour it. Even my picky one ate the vegetables since they were chopped up small and covered in cheesy soup and tater tots.

Tater Tot Casserole

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 (32 ounce) package frozen potato rounds
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread hamburger into bottom of pan, covering entire bottom, gently tamping beef down. Sprinkle with diced onions. Layer frozen veggies as next layer. Cover with the soup, straight from the can, carefully spreading with spatula to cover entirely.
Layer tater tots on top, covering entire top with tots. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees) for 1 hour, or until hamburger is done. Check after 30 minutes; if tots are getting too brown, turn down to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C).

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