Cristen and I were talking recipes the other night at work. She claims to be a "lazy" cook but really what she and her husband like to cook and eat are no-fuss, tasty, one pot meals/casseroles served with fresh salads and veggies as sides. The truth is not everyone enjoys cooking as a hobby and that's okay. Cristen's self-proclaimed "lazy" approach just means she has more time to spend doing other things she enjoys more than being in the kitchen.
While cooking is a hobby of mine, I confess, there are days it's not my favorite room in the house either and that's when I enjoy making casseroles and throw-it-in-the crockpot meals as well.
Very similar to shepherd's pie, the church basement tater tot casserole is just the Americanized version. Gene even admitted to me last night that as much as he loves mashed potatoes, the traditional topping for shepherd's pie, he actually prefers tater tots for their crispy texture on this casserole. Even more Americanized, he topped his with ketchup. I gave that a whorl on my second helping, and he's right, it's good.
Tater tot casserole is as simple or complex as you want to make it and ultimately customizable. Cristen said she sometimes uses the leanest ground beef she can buy, doesn't pre-brown it, merely pats it into the casserole dish, sprinkles a packet of taco seasoning over it, then pours over the soup/milk mixture, cheese, and tops with tater tots. Other times she pre-browns country style ground sausage adds whatever vegetables she has in the freezer with or without the cheese.
I chose to go the browned, lean ground beef direction, sauteed garlic, onions, and a mix of colored sweet peppers that I keep chopped and uncooked in the freezer at all times, and peas, along with shredded Italian mixed cheese.
Another variation is my friend, Chris' venison, sausage, and green bean tater tot casserole
Cristen's Tater Tot Casserole
- 1 1/2 lbs extra lean ground beef
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 green, red, or orange bell pepper, diced
- 2 cup frozen veggies: mixed, green beans, peas with carrots, or peas
- 2 tsps Cavender's Greek Seasoning or other seasoning mix such as Mrs. Dash, Emeril's, Paula Deen, etc.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: 1 tsp red pepper flakes for heat
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (98% fat free) mixed with 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup shredded cheese: cheddar, colby/jack mix, Mexican mix, or Italian mix
- 1 28 oz bag Tater Tots
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In large, heavy-bottomed skillet, saute garlic, onion, and pepper until onion is translucent and pepper is softened. Add ground beef and brown. Drain any fat that renders.
3. Add frozen vegetables and seasonings. Stir in mushroom soup. Bring everything to a bubble and then spoon into cooking sprayed casserole dish.
4. Top with shredded cheese and then tater tots. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until tater tots are browned and crispy, and casserole is bubbling.
Nutrition: Calories: 450; Protein: 24; Carbs: 26; Fat: 26; Fiber: 4;