Since we got back from China, I’ve been enjoying cooking whatever my little heart desires. No longer am I constrained by what ingredients are available and if I’m willing to pay their exorbitant price! I am free!! If I want to make cookies, I can get chocolate chips, no problem! If I want toast, there will be butter! And if I want meat, by golly, I’m gonna get some without worrying about whether it’s safe to eat!
It’s been great. ?
And one day a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted tater tot casserole – a throwback to my childhood. ☺️ The ultimate in comfort food, am I right? Just what every returning expat needs. Buuuut, the tater tot casserole of my childhood was chock-full of cans of cream-of-whatever-soup. Chicken, celery, mushroom, who knows what. And in general, I like to keep my dinners as free of ultra-processed ingredients as I can. Not to say I don’t eat processed food ever, cuz Oreos=life, and you’ll take the ice cream away from my cold, dead body; but the less processed food, the better. I mean, we’ve already got tater tots in this recipe, so we gotta at least pretend to make the sauce healthy-ish right?
So. I looked around instead for a version without condensed soup. And lo and behold, they do exist! Huzzah! It just so happened that the day I made this, Terry’s sister was in town with her two kids, and she was saying it was too bad her husband wasn’t with them because it’s apparently his favorite meal. ? Apparently I’m not the only one with fond memories of this casserole from my childhood.
I made a few adjustments to the recipe I found, adding more vegetables to make it a little more hearty, and upping the sauce to accommodate that. It was a home run with everyone in the house, if I do say so myself. So if you’re looking for a tasty, relatively healthy (depending on your definition), not too difficult tater tot casserole recipe, I’ve got you covered.
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
- 1 lb ground beef
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1½ cups mushrooms, chopped
- 1½ cups celery, chopped
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 cups broth
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 lb bag tater tots
- Preheat your oven according to the directions on the tater tot package.
- In a skillet, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Drain. Transfer the beef to a plate and return the skillet to the stove.
- Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and shallots and cook until mushrooms start to soften, about 3- 5 minutes. Salt and pepper generously.
- Add garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add the flour and stir for one minute.
- Add the milk and broth slowly, while stirring to avoid lumps. Add the ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and smoked paprika, stirring to combine.
- Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the beef back in and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the beef mixture into an un-greased 9 X 13 pan. Gently top with the tater tots in an even layer, and bake according to the instructions on the tater tot package.
- Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken before serving.