Winter Comfort Foods: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

Winter Comfort Foods: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

Cheesy tater tot casserole

Cheesy tater tot casserole

When my friend Scott announced he was preparing a tater tot casserole, my ears perked up.  Tater tots? As in the crispy, little potato nuggets that I loved as a kid?  I begged him to tell me more.  A native of Nebraska, Scott says he grew up on tater tot casserole, and prepares the same recipe his mother made, which he happily shared with me.  Scott’s tater tot casserole is a playful rendition of shepherd’s pie — ground beef, diced vegetables, canned soup and plenty of tater tots. It’s something the kid in all of us would enjoy… and here is my interpretation of the dish.

I created this recipe using a popular hash brown casserole as an inspiration, then added flavorful chicken sausages and sweet bell peppers to the mix.  I used sun-dried tomato smoked sausages, but regular hot dogs or shredded chicken breast will substitute nicely.  Serve this casserole with a side of steamed broccoli, lima beans or a fresh salad and you’ll have an easy comfort food favorite.

With my friend Scott

With my friend Scott

Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole
Serves 6

Ingredients

6 cups frozen tater tots
1 red bell pepper, diced
4-5 smoked chicken sausages, sliced
2 10-oz cans of cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.  Spray or grease a 13×9 rectangular baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and bell pepper over medium high heat.  Add the sausages and saute until peppers are softened and sausages have toasted, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the condensed soup, sour cream and milk.  Add the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.  Once combined, add all the cheese, tater tots, peas and the sausage mixture.  Mix until well combined.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered for 30-40 minutes.  The casserole is done when the tots are slightly browned and the cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
A Good Friday Fish Recipe: Tuna Noodle Casserole

A Good Friday Fish Recipe: Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ooey, gooey, tuna noodle casserole

Whenever I travel, I fall into certain habits — rituals, actually — that I must complete:  I check-in online and monitor my flight status.  I put all of my travel-sized toiletries in a clear, plastic bag.  I plan all of my outfits around two pairs of shoes.  I grab a stack of magazines so I have plenty of reading material.  And I always, always, empty my refrigerator but leave some type of dish for my return.

I love dishes that freeze well and re-heat to perfection.  Tuna Noodle Casserole is one of those recipes you can make well in advance then have plenty to enjoy whenever you feel like it.  Instead of baking the casserole in one large container, I opt for several smaller dishes, portioned for just one or two servings, and are freezer, oven and microwave safe.

Made with peppers, capers and hearts of palm

My love for tuna noodle casserole is two fold: it’s a comfort food as well as a budget saver.  I love the soft creaminess of the noodles with hearty chunks of tuna.  I also love how cheap it can be to make!

I must admit, my version of this classic recipe is anything but traditional.  I don’t use peas and I don’t top it with breadcrumbs.  I do, however, add freshly sliced bell peppers, tangy caper buds and slices of crunchy hearts of palm.  Also, instead of canned pack tuna, I prefer the type that comes in a pouch.  Rather than being packed in water, I buy tuna that is sealed in olive oil, as it yields a much better flavor.

Individual dishes make reheating easy!

I’ve been able to keep this casserole for 30 days in my freezer without a problem.  It re-heats beautifully in the oven,  and in a pinch, it will do well in the microwave.  Once you’ve made a casserole, it’s pretty easy to change up the ingredients based on what you have leftover in your fridge.  Simply swap the tuna for chicken or ham and use other types of vegetables and you’ve got a whole new dish!

If you enjoy Meditteranean style dishes, or are just looking for a little bit of zest for dinner, give this a try.  I have a small container of tuna noodle casserole waiting for me in my freezer — and I can’t wait to heat it up when I get back!

Tuna Noodle Casserole (alla Chris)

  • 1 pound wide egg noodles (cooked just before al dente in salted water)
  • 2 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 pouches tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 1 jar (3.5 ounces) non-pareille capers, drained
  • 1 cup hearts of palms, sliced into small circles
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Use a cooking spray to lightly grease your baking dishes.
  3. In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add bell peppers and stir. Cook until just tender about 4 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.
  4. Turn off the heat and add tuna, hearts of palm, capers and noodles. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture between prepared baking dishes sprinkling with Parmesan cheese. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
  5. To freeze, allow each dish to cool completely.  Seal and place in freezer.