i've never been to the midwest.
well, unless you count a stopover in chicago when i was 17, coming home from visiting my godparents in maryland. i had an hour, which was just enough time to find the gate for my new plane and check out the airport shops. so i guess that doesn't really count, huh?
where was i going with this? oh, yes. so i've never been to the midwest, where casseroles are called "hot dishes" and are a staple in many households for dinner. i've made a few of them myself, but never had i tried the glory that is TATER TOT CASSEROLE.
dudes. there are three basic ingredients in this thing - ground beef, tater tots (you know, those delicious bits of seasoned potato all smushed together in a cute little bite-sized cylindrical patty), and cream of [insert random vegetable here] soup. all good, right? i googled for recipes and found all sorts of variations, including ones that called for french fried onions, green beans, sour cream, bacon.
you know where this is going.
i don't even know what brought this casserole to mind - i'd never heard of it until i read a cheesy la vyrle spencer novel years ago - but for some reason, yesterday, i HAD to have it. i knew i had all the ingredients, and i seriously looked forward to making it all. day. long.
i tweaked one of the recipes i found and made my own variation of "tater tot hot dish" - browned and drained a pound of ground beef, added in some crumbled cooked bacon (surprise!), mixed a can of low-sodium cream of mushroom soup with a can of skim milk, and stirred it all together. i put that in a baking pan, topped it with some shredded cheddar, covered the entire surface with frozen tots, and then sprinkled more cheese on top of that.
i'm drooling just thinking about it.
to make the meal semi-healthy, i decided to make the teen's favorite spinach salad (see, the bacon did double duty). i served it alongside the casserole, and the hub took one look and said "dude, are those TATER TOTS in there??"
i glared at him, started feeding the bean, and we all dug in.
oh mah gah. i am in luuuuuurve with tater tot hot dish. it's the best thing EVER. and although i really, really dislike leftovers, i was totally stoked to pack up the rest of the pan in a tupperware container for lunch.
so guess what i just popped in the microwave? mmmmm. peace!