Saturday, January 7, 2017

Draw the shades and grab the Tots!

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I confessed my secret love of what my family used to call Tater Tot Casserole (and what Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks euphemistically titled Vegetable Casserole)? Now I'm going to tell you my secret update of the recipe-- the healthy-ish version that I sneakily make when no one else is around to judge.

First, though, an overview of the variations. The one I posted earlier:

Browned hamburger, mixed vegetables, and creamy soup with dry onion soup mix, all topped with Tater Tots, this is a pretty classic version. (At least, I think it's closest to what I remember eating at potlucks.)

The simplest one I found was Quick Casserole in Family Favorites (St. John's Lutheran Church in Amlin, Ohio, 1976):

Here, the meat isn't even cooked first! The raw slab is just spread with cream of chicken soup and topped with the Tots. This is the super-basic (and I imagine super-greasy) version, but surely the easiest too. 

The Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers series features a version called Beef and Tater Casserole in the "Life-Saver" Cookbook (1976):

At least the beef is browned again, but the filling is just two kinds of cream soup topped with the iconic Tots.

I wanted my own version to serve one (because nobody else is going to eat it!) and healthier-- no canned cream of anything soup, more veggies, and no meat (since I'm mostly vegetarian). So here's my Updated Tater Tot Casserole:


1/2 c. milk (I use unsweetened original almond milk, but I imagine soy or dairy would be fine too.)
3/4 c. or so of cauliflower pieces (more if they're cut big or you like sauce to be thick; less if they're chopped finely or you like it thin)
1/4 tsp. salt
any seasonings you like, to taste (I used some rosemary, thyme, and minced onion flakes)

Put all the ingredients together in a tiny pan and boil them until the cauliflower is fall-apart soft, at least 15 minutes. Puree until smooth. (I used an immersion blender.)

While sauce is cooking, prepare filling:

1 meat-style veggie burger, crumbled (I used a Quorn burger, but Boca American Classic or a Morningstar Farms Griller would be fine too. Or use a quarter pound of meat if that's your thing.)

about a cup and a half (whatever amount looks right for your individual casserole dish) of veggies, your choice (I used mushrooms since this usually has cream of mushroom soup, plus some celery and green peppers I wanted to use up, plus some frozen green beans because that's what I had)

seasonings to taste (I threw in some pepper, a little smoked salt, rosemary, thyme, and minced onion flakes)

Saute the burger, veggies, and seasonings together in a small skillet while the sauce cooks. Try to get them a little brown for flavor.

Once the sauce is ready, pour it into the skillet and stir to coat everything. 

Pour the whole mess into an individual casserole dish. Top with as many Tater Tots as you can justify. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until the Tots are brown. Let cool for five minutes before eating it in a darkened room with the shades drawn.... Well, unless you want to burn your mouth and/or let the world know that you enjoy eating this kind of thing. ;-)

At least it's better than Smashed Tots a la Pocket Lint.


  1. Looks really yum! I recognize that casserole dish, by the by. It's "The Spice of Life", love it :D

    1. I got it at a thrift store. I was excited to find that pattern (and size, since I only ever make individual-sized casseroles).

  2. That's pretty funny. Even in the big era of canned soup casseroles I used to make a quick white sauce and use real onions and mushrooms instead of cream of mushroom soup, but now I don't really do casseroles any more.