Tater Tot Casserole

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When you were a child, you probably looked forward to any meal that included tater tots. This simple little potato nugget tastes similar to french fries, but tater tots somehow seem more exciting and delicious than ordinary fries. Your kids probably love them as much as you did, but when you're trying to eat healthy, you tend to skip frozen foods in favor of something you make yourself. Once you take a lot at this recipe for tater tot casserole, you might find yourself excited about tater tot night again.

Start with one pound of boneless chicken. Chicken breasts are delicious, but chicken thighs are a little more economical. No matter what you choose, cut the chicken into bite size pieces and set inside a skillet. Cook the chicken over low heat until cooked through. If you prefer beef, cook a pound of ground beef instead.  Add one small can of cream of mushroom soup, or make gravy with the meat drippings by adding some broth, milk and flour. Add one cup of water to the mixture if you use the soup, and stir until well combined. While the mixture cooks, add one bag of frozen corn and one bag of peas, or the equivalent in your favorite frozen vegetables.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased or buttered baking dish. Pour one bag of tater tots over the top of the mixture and make sure they are evenly spread around in one layer. If you're feeling a little fancy, you can arrange the tater tots in a pattern on top of the casserole. Bake the mixture for 25 minutes at 425 degrees or until the tater tots are lightly browned on top. This is also a great make ahead dish. Place everything inside the dish except for the tater tots and cover with plastic wrap. Thirty minutes before dinner time, remove the dish from the freezer, top with the tots and bake as directed.

Tater tots aren't just for dinner either. Create a quick make ahead breakfast dish with tater tots, bacon, cheese and eggs. Whisk one dozen eggs with ½ cup of milk and season with salt and pepper. Cook one pound of bacon until slightly crispy, and arrange the bacon in the bottom of a casserole dish. Cover the bacon with one bag of tater tots (spread evenly) and pour the egg mixture over the top. Cover the eggs with several handfuls of cheddar cheese and bake at 325 degrees until the eggs set.

Tater tots are a great and versatile food. You can pair these little potato nuggets with a simple turkey hot dog for a quick and simple dinner, or you can create a make ahead dish for those nights when you don't have a lot of time. Some stores even carry sweet potato puffs, which will add more nutrition to your meal...and they're delicious!

Cook Ahead for Easter Dinner

Easter spiral cut ham

Easter dinner is a great time to gather with family and a good way to celebrate the holiday. However, it can also be a stressful time. There are so many dishes to prepare, it can get very hectic. It need not be so, though. This is a great time to make use of your freezer and take the opportunity to make ahead part of your holiday meal.

What portions of the Easter dinner can easily be prepared within the days before the holiday and left in the freezer or refrigerator until the day of the meal? You can actually make many of the dishes that you will want ahead of time.

Dinner rolls are a great way to start your meal. These can easily be made ahead, frozen and reheated when they are needed.

Ham is a classic main dish at Easter dinners. This meat can easily be prepared ahead of time. Cook it a few days in advance, freeze and just reheat it on Easter day. Or you can buy a pre-cooked ham that keeps in the fridge a few days and just needs to be warmed up on Easter.

Another classic holiday food is turkey. Remember to leave adequate time to thaw in the refrigerator any turkey that you have prepared in advance. One of the more efficient approaches is to utilize a turkey breast rather than working with a whole bird. That will allow quicker preparation time as well as shorter thawing time. This works especially well if you are also serving another meat or are having numerous side dishes.

When it comes to side dishes, mashed potatoes are one side dish that often appears on the Easter menu. Fortunately, they are also a dish that can easily be prepared in advance and reheated. Slowly reheating them in a crock pot or preparing oven roasted mashed potatoes are two good paths to getting great results when you reheat them.

What would a holiday meal be without dessert? Pies, especially fruits pies, are ideal candidates for freezing. You can either bake them and then freeze, or you can prepare them and freeze them unbaked. Remember to allow enough time for thawing and baking, especially if they will be competing for your oven space.

With a little bit of cooking in advance, you can enjoy your dinner on Easter with a minimum of stress.

Thankful for Leftovers!

Rosemary Pie
It's the day after Thanksgiving. It's the biggest shopping day of the year and you're at home staring into your fridge full of Thanksgiving Day leftovers. Whether you're going out to take advantage of all the sales today or not, you have to eat. In all of the food available to you for reheating, nothing looks interesting, and the last thing you want to do is stand over a stove again for hours on end. You, my friend, are in luck. There are so many recipes available now that you can effortlessly make a new meal out of your leftovers in just minutes.

A traditional Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and sometimes much more. For starters, a lot can be done with turkey. Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey salad (like chicken salad), turkey on your salad, turkey added to macaroni and cheese (a children's favorite); the possibilities are endless! Turkey is very versatile and can be used in place of chicken in nearly any recipe. Turkey can also replace beef and pork in many recipes.

Who remembers Shepherd's Pie? They served it in our elementary school cafeteria and it is such a yummy (but simple to make) comfort food. It is made up of ground beef, mashed potatoes and cheese. The beef can easily be switched to turkey, and you can even throw in a vegetable if you have left over corn or green beans. You just mix together your meat, cheese and potatoes (and veggies if you like) and heat in the oven in a casserole dish. Voila! Lunch (or dinner) is served.

A favorite of mine is "Crispy Rosemary Potato Cakes." This recipe uses up 3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes and is absolutely delicious.

3 tablespoon(s) olive oil
1 1/2 cup(s) chopped onion
1 tablespoon(s) finely chopped rosemary
3 cup(s) leftover mashed potatoes
1 cup(s) panko bread crumbs
Salt
Pepper

In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook until onion is soft and golden, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add potatoes, and mix. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread panko in a shallow dish. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Using a 1/3 cup measure, form potato mixture into 12 cakes. Gently press panko on both sides of each cake. Cook cakes in batches (adding more oil as needed), turning once, until golden brown and heated t

Turkey tetrazzini is a creamy pasta dish made with turkey and your choice of vegetables. There are many variations of this dish. I like this one.

8 ounces spaghetti, ready cut
1 lb white mushroom, sliced
1/3 cup butter
3 cups chopped cooked turkey or 3 cups cooked chicken
2 (10 3/4 ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
salt and pepper
chopped parsley (optional)

Cook and drain pasta. In large skillet, saute mushrooms in butter. Add the turkey, sour cream and soup. Cook just till heated and combined. Fold in noodles. Season with salt and pepper. Put in buttered casserole. Top with parsley if desired. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes or until heated through.

No matter the selection in your fridge, a quick internet search can bring endless possibilities your way. There are also cookbooks available specifically for using up leftovers. Get creative and enjoy...again!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Casserole, Mexican Chicken Casserole, Mexican food

INGREDIENTS

(Serves 6-8)

1 package corn tortillas
2 cups chicken -- cooked and cubed
12 ounces cheddar cheese -- grated
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can tomatoes with green chilies -- (Ro-Tel)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 onion -- chopped
1 freezer bag -- jumbo

PREPARATION
Chop cooled, cooked chicken meat into largish chunks. Tear tortillas into 1-inch wide strips.

In a large baking dish, alternate layers of tortillas, chicken meat and cheese (reserve 1/2 cup of cheese for topping) until all the chicken is used. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the layered mixture. Top with reserved cheese.

Cover with plastic wrap, then seal with aluminum foil.

To freeze: flash freeze casserole, then place frozen, covered dish into jumbo freezer bag.

To prepare: thaw casserole before baking. Remove plastic wrap, then replace foil. Bake covered casserole at 350-degrees until hot and bubbly. You may remove aluminum foil 10 minutes before taking the casserole out of the oven to melt cheese.

Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes, then cut with spatula and serve.

Easy Crockpot Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices bacon
4 chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. sour cream
1 or 2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 Tablespoon. flour
4 oz pimentos (small jar)
cooked rice.

PREPARATION:

Wrap one slice of bacon around a chicken breast. (you can use 4 or 5 breasts). Salt and pepper each breast. Place in the bottom of a crock pot. In a bowl, mix 8 oz. sour cream 1 can cream of chicken soup, pimentos and flour. Pour over chicken, cook on high 6 or 7 hours. If you want more gravy add another can of cream of chicken soup instead of 1 can. Pour over rice.

*** This is a great recipe to prepare ahead of time and freeze in freezer bags.   Simply cook some minute rice and reheat the already cooked and frozen chicken dish. 

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