Monday, January 9, 2012

Comfort Food

Every once in a while I find a recipe that becomes a favorite. A few months ago I saw a recipe for something called Tater Tot Casserole and I was intrigued. Homemade chili topped with 'cheddar' and tater tots and baked. It sounded good so I tried it. As with any recipe that I try, the first time I make it according to the exact recipe and directions just to see what it is like, from there I tweak it a little each time I make it.

I have made the casserole several times and it has become my go to cold weather comfort food. I make it in my large 4 quart glass casserole dish and it feeds both of us dinner for two nights and both lunches for at least one day, sometimes two days. I made this for dinner tonight and took pictures so that I could share.

(Tater Tot Casserole)

I can't remember where I found the recipe online. I find some that don't have print options and I need to cut and paste them into a word document to print so I don't end up with pages of unnecessary ads and such. I feel bad though, as I am doing that very thing now, I don't know how to add in a print option just for a recipe.

The following is a vegan recipe, which can be made carnivorous fairly easy.


1 Can Black Beans (drained and rinsed)
1 Can Kidney Beans (drained and rinsed)
2 Cans Diced Tomatoes (Mexican style with juice)
1 Cup Frozen Corn Kernels
2 Fresh Jalapenos (diced - less if you want milder chili)
1 Green Pepper (diced)
1 Cup Chopped Celery
4-5 Brown Mushrooms (chopped)
1/4 Cup Cilantro (coarsely chopped)
1 Onion (diced)
2 Cloves Garlic (sliced) (I use 5 cloves)
1 Tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos (you can use soy sauce)
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Hot Sauce
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
2 pinches Paprika
2 Cups Daiya Vegan Shredded Cheddar Cheese
32 oz Bag of frozen Tater Tots (I use a generic brand)
8 oz Vegan Ground Beef Substitute (I used Yves Taco Stuffers)
* use cooked ground beef and dairy cheese for non-vegans

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 375˚.

In large frying pan saute onion, green pepper, jalapenos, celery, and mushrooms until soft. Add tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, and corn. Mix together and add Braggs (or soy sauce) cumin, oregano, chili powder, hot sauce and paprika. Mix again. I also sprinkle in some red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and if using, add vegan ground beef substitute (or cooked ground beef).

I find that the sauce is a little runny and I like my chili thicker so I mix up a little cornstarch and cold water and thicken this mixture a bit. As the veggies cook in the oven it tends to thin a bit. When the chili is to desired thickness add chopped cilantro. Stir and pour into greased casserole dish. It should resemble the following:

(vegan chili)

Sprinkle with Daiya. If using real cheese, cheddar or pepper jack would work well. If using vegan shredded cheese Daiya is by far the best tasting and it melts.

(topped with Daiya shredded cheddar)

Gently pat down the cheese to make a flat surface and place the tater tots on top for equal coverage. Yes, I always place them in this pattern. I'm crazy that way.

(with tater tots - placed just right)

Place in a 375˚ oven for 30-40 minutes. Time will vary depending on oven calibration and how crispy you want your tater tots.
Finished product:

(30 minutes in the oven)

Let rest for a few minutes until it stops bubbling. Scoop onto plates or bowls and enjoy.

(On salad plates for portion control)

I have calculated the calorie content for the casserole I made tonight using the Yves Taco Stuffers and Daiya cheese. Total calories were 3325; divided into 6 servings is 554 calories per serving; divided into 8 servings is 416 calories per serving. Fat content varies depending on cheese, tater tot, and meat options.

For variation you can change up the spices and if carbohydrates are of no concern it would be tasty with cornbread or french bread for dipping.

I hope you venture to try the recipe and enjoy it. Let me know if you do.

- Au Revoir

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." - Luciano Pavarotti


  1. OMG this looks delicious!!!! I think I am going to have to try this. I love comfort food. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Trobairitz:

    I should have looked at this after lunch. Now I'm getting hungry, I love tater tots, and Cilantro, lots of cilantro. I can almost smell it now . . . I keep looking at that tater pattern on top and wonder if you started in the middle and worked your way to the outside circumfrence, it must take a long time to do this

    Riding the Wet Coast

  3. Fabulous!

    Cilantro is coriander!

    Tater tots - I'm not sure that we have that sort of thing over here in England - would chunky oven chips do?


  4. I am drooling all over the keyboard right now. The ingredients are not yet on my current diet but once done with it, I will give that a try. Looks yummy! Never heard of Tater Tots. I am pretty sure that such could be handmade if needed as I try to stay away from processed food.

  5. @Dar - Try it. It should pass the hubby and Diva Jr. test too.

    @Bobskoot - You'd be surprised at how quick I can line up the tater tots. I start at the outside and work towards the center.

    @Nikos - Cilantro is yummy. I never used to like it but once I found out it was the most widely used herb in the world I made sure to acquire a taste for it. I think that any sort of chunky oven chips, or frozen chopped or shredded hash browns would work.

  6. @Sonja - It is yummy. I think you could substitute fresh shredded potato, it wouldn't be as salty that way. And if cheese isn't on your menu you can leave it off for a healthier option. I try not to eat processed food too often, but this dish just begs me to make it. I omit fake meat to make it a little healthier sometimes.

  7. Trobairitz:
    Thanks so much for that - It's my turn to cook dinner tomorrow night and it looks absolutely delicious. We've got most of the ingredients and what we haven't, I can adapt. (substitute Tater Tots for thin-sliced fresh potatoes or kumara (NZ sweet potatoes). Cilantro bolts to seed fast in our climate but we have Vietnamese Mint which tastes the same but with a chilli tang. It's a perennial.


  8. NUOM NUOM NUOM!!!!! hmmm, no daiya for me, the nutritional yeast content kills me, but im DEFINITELY going to try this tweaked! thanks trobairitz! OMG yumm!~

  9. @Geoff - I am sure you can find something to use for potatoes. Hope you like it. The mint with a chili tang sounds really interesting.

    @MQ01 - I never think about the nutritional yeast in things as we use a lot of it. Does it make you sick? I know a co-worker that can't use it as she says it makes her throat close up like an allergic reaction.

    I use it to make an uncheese sauce or as a popcorn topping with garlic and cayenne. I find that after large quantities (like in uncheese sauce) you pee neon yellow - too much information, I know. :-)

  10. OMG! I just gained 4lbs looking at those picutres!!

  11. nutritional yeast, yup, makes me very sick; ibs, instant raging infections, and bloody (stool and nosebleed) reaction. its bad for me, which is a bummer but im learning to work around it. and tmi right back at 'cha, lol!

  12. That actually looks pretty good though most of my family will balk at the peppers. I say actually as I've been sick for several days and food has not looked or smelled good at all. The comments about Tater Tots is interesting as I had never even heard of them until the last couple of years.

  13. @Eve - I hope not, lol. At least when portioned out the calories aren't too high. I think a healthier version could be made with low fat cheese and real potatoes instead of tater tots. Actually mashed potatoes on top like a shepherd's pie might be good, or cornbread like a tamale pie.

    @MQ01 - touche with the TMI. What a reaction to the nutritional yeast. Now I know why you avoid it, I would too.

    @Richard - I am sure you could cut out the peppers to keep the family happy. You can tell we are a spice and garlic eating duo. On the ingredient list I linked tater tots, I wasn't sure who would know what they were. Sure hope you are feeling better.

  14. Dang it, I forgot...don't click off a page before saving the comment!
    The abbreviated recap:
    Looks yummy, so I had to go and save a copy ...which is when I lost my comment! :)

  15. @Bluekat - Doh - at least you got the recipe, lol

  16. This sounds indeed the defintion of comfort food!

    1. Homemade chili topped with cheese and tater can you go wrong?

  17. I love Tater Tots. I remember when they first came out, in 1964 or 65. There's always a bag in my freezer...

    Scootin' Old Skool

    1. I love them too. Unfortunately they aren't very good for me. I can't resist this casserole though.