Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hot Tottie

So, I like to think I'm pretty handy in the kitchen.  I've been known to whip together a gourmet holiday meal or two in my day (individual beef wellingtons with Gorgonzola and Madeira mushrooms?  Why, yes, I'll have those for you momentarily).

However, due to current budgetary restraints and the fact that I'm living with someone whose tastebuds have not developed past a 8 year old's level, I find myself struggling, awash in very simplistic, cheap easy meals.

And I'm not knocking it whatsoever.  In fact, I'm finding these meals quite comforting and gratifying.  Even delicious, if I do say so myself.

Thanks to Pinterest, I have recreated such instant classics as "pizza casserole", "copycat Outback Alice Springs Chicken" and "Chicken Pepperoni" and I declare them all "the bomb" as the kids like to say.  And since they've all been given two thumbs up by tasters with discriminating palates, I've decided to volunteer my own cheap, easy and quick (that's what she said) dish prepared just last night, and cultivated from a variety of recipes found across the world wide web.

Behold: the Chili Cheese Tater Tot Casserole:


1 lb. ground beef
1 med sweet white onion, chopped
1 15 oz can ranch beans, undrained
1 14.5 oz can chili style diced tomatoes*, undrained
1 packet chili seasoning (your choice, I used McCormick's regular, because we don't like it too hot, but do like a bit of spice)
4 cups Mexican-spiced shredded cheese* (16 oz pkg)
1 2 lb bag tater-tots (you will have some left over)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9x11" casserole dish with non-stick spray, or butter, margarine, oil, whatever.

Brown ground beef and onions together in a skillet until beef is no longer pink and onions are soft.  Drain.  While meat is draining, add tomatoes, beans and seasoning packet to skillet and stir together.  Add beef/onion mixture & give a couple more stirs til all is blended. At this point, the chili may appear very thick and you may feel the urge to add water to loosen it up, but resist that urge!  It's going to loosen up quite nicely in the oven.

Pour chili into greased casserole dish.  Add 2 cups (half the package) of cheese on top.  Layer frozen tots on top of cheese (like I did in the pic up there; isn't it cute and all neat and pretty)?

Cook uncovered in oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 min, sprinkle remaining cheese on top of tots and continue baking for 5 min more, or until cheese gets nice and melty.

Let stand 5 min at room temp before serving, then voila!  

(after, not as neat & pretty but damn tasty)

A hearty, tasty, and not necessarily healthy but generously portioned meal for four.  You could serve with a nice salad as a side if you want to appear to be fancy and healthy, or you could just enjoy a big bowlful of this and finish it with Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra for dessert if you want to throw caution to the wind and really wreck your diet.  Your choice.

*Note: I used the store brand version of these ingredients (what up, Kroger!) and they worked great for this...

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