Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Do You Mean...Budget? Tater Tot Casserole

Since times are getting a little tough for many people, and it appears that it may last for awhile, I started thinking about how to cut expenses. Food is often one of the first places we start. One of the websites I follow, Simply Recipes, posted about this and it inspired me to look at my own cooking habits. I actually was pretty good at feeding a family of 6 on a shoestring for years. Then as the kids began to leave home, I was able to be a bit more extravagant. The last few years I have really gone all out with my cooking. Haute cuisine isn't my cup of tea, but I did get a bit fancier. For awhile we subscribed to cable, and I lived on the sumptuousness of the Food Network. I learned so many new things about cooking from Rachel, Paula, Giada, Tyler, and the rest. Sadly, cable is one of the cuts we've made, so now I search PBS for cooking shows, and devour Rachel and Martha on network television. And I pick up cooking magazines and peruse the internet for cooking sites. Gotta love the internet! So now, I will try to take the many lessons I have learned and apply them to budget cooking.

One of my methods for keeping a tight control on the grocery budget years ago was to make a weekly menu and then make my purchases accordingly. But I have totally lost sight of that little technique. I have for the last few years just peered into the pantry to see what I "wanted" not what I "needed." So, new resolution...plan, plan, plan. When I was planning meals ahead I seldom had to make extra trips to the store. Over the last several years it seems as though I have been going daily. And do you ever just pick up the one thing you go after? I think not. I can end up spending 3 times what I should have. As of this weekend (I go shopping mostly on the weekends just so I can fight the crowds...good for getting out hostile aggression) I am going to plan the work and work the plan. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

As we all try to curb our lifestyles a bit, I will give tips that I find useful and links that have recipes and ideas. Today's link is the Simply Recipes one from above. She also has several links that are great for this. I checked them all out and actually bookmarked them. With a little researching you all will be able to help yourselves cut some corners.

Now...FOOD! I find that often those cost cutting recipes are comfort foods in disguise. With all the kids around I did a fare share of casseroles. One of their favorites was "Tator Tot Casserole." I mean, really, who doesn't like tator tots. The following is my version and I have now idea where it came from. I've been making it for over 30 years and my kids still like it.


2 cups cooked rice (I use brown rice)
1 cup chopped onion
1 large clove grated garlic
1 lb. ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, mixture....knock yourself out)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 box frozen peas
2 cans cream of chicken soup (you can use the healthy stuff)
1 cup milk
approximately 1 lb. tator tots or tator rounds (I accidently picked up a bag of the rounds instead of the tots but they worked fine) enough to cover the top
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Saute the onions and garlic in EVOO. When tender add the ground meat and brown. Add the oregano and cook for about a minute. Drain off any excess water and grease. In a large bowl mix together the meat, rice, peas, soup, and milk. Spread in a 9x13 casserole dish. I usually spray my dish with a cooking spray just to be on the safe side. Top with the tots and finally sprinkle the cheese over the tots. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Yummmmm.

There are so many ways that this can be changed. The veggies are purely based on preference. I just really like rice and peas together, but I have seen green beans in this also. Any cream soup can be substituted. So do whatever floats your boat and take comfort in eating with your family.

No comments: