Tator Tot Casserole!

Last week I decided that because it was fall and cold I wanted to make a casserole. I started looking through my recipe books and then realized something…my favorite childhood recipe is a casserole! One of the best memories I have of going to daycare when I was younger was the days we get to eat tator tot casserole for lunch! At my daycare, everyone was asked one question before they got lunch: ‘Do you want a lot, a little, or a dot?” On tator tot casserole day everyone always said ‘a lot!’

When I decided to make tator tot casserole I knew I had all of the ingredients because it is a very simple recipe. I just ran to the grocery store to get some ground beef. The rest of the recipe calls for cream of mushroom soup, frozen green beans, onions, and frozen tator tots! I leave out the onions because they never seem to cook up enough to take the really oniony taste out. All you do is layer all of the ingredients: ground beef, soup, beans, tator tots, and bake for an hour and it comes out hot and bubbly!

There’s nothing like your favorite childhood recipe on a cold, windy, fall day! And I had leftovers to live off of for a week!

Deciphering Recipes

>One of the most fun things about eating at a restaurant is trying to figure out how to make some of the dishes. For the past year or two I have been going to the Ethiopian restaurant on State Street, Baraka. They serve stews with potatoes, lentils, chicken, carrots, and beef. I usually get the combination platter that has a stew with chicken, carrots, and a savory red sauce and a stew with lentils, potatoes, and a spicy brown sauce. I am not a very big fan of the Ethiopian sour bread so I usually get my stews over rice. But the showcase reason I keep returning to Baraka (even their lunch cart on Library Mall!) is the cold lentil salad that comes with entrees on the lunch menu. Dinner entrees come with a generic dinner salad so whenever I go I always ask to substitute the salad for the lentils!

I have been trying to figure out what is in the lentil salad for quite a while and recently got some help from one of the servers who gave up some of the secrets. It is made with brown lentils that are not cooked to mush (which is like a lot), chopped onions, chopped green peppers, and is marinated in olive oil and apple cider vinegar. The only thing missing are the spices. I have decided it is probably salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic (a lot of it!), and cumin.

I just purchased all of the ingredients and am looking forward to figuring out if my recipe tastes like the original Buraka salad! If you’ve had the Buraka lentil salad and have suggestions for my recipe let me know!

Supper Squash Medley

>I just finished prepping my second crock-pot recipe for tomorrow! This one will only take 6 hours…probably because it is vegetarian but I plan on making a chicken breast to go along with it! The recipe called for green chiles but I am a little afraid of using fresh chiles so I used canned ones…don’t get me wrong, I love heat. Just not the kind that makes your eyes burn just from cutting up the pepper. So I thought the more milder canned kind would be better for now! Here is the recipe.

Combine the following ingredients in your crock-pot, cover, cook on LOW for 6 hours:

-2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced (I only had one butternut squash so I added two small acorn squash…hope this ends up working out!)
-1 can of undrained tomatoes (I always buy the no salt added type because it keeps the sodium down!)
– 1 can corn, drained
– 2 onions, chopped (I used small yellow, milder onions)
-2 green bell peppers, chopped
-2 teaspoons minced garlic (I put more than that in there because I love garlic!)
– 2 green chiles, chopped
-1 cup chicken broth
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can tomato paste

after 6 hours…remove 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and combine it with the tomato paste….add back into the crock-pot, stir well, and cook for another 30 minutes!

I am very excited! I hope my substitutions work out!

Left overs

>There’s something about leftovers…there are many pros and cons of leftover food.

Pros: no preparation time, cheapest way to eat (other than free!), all you have to do is microwave
Cons: you have to eat something for an extended period of time, microwaving isn’t the most appetizing cooking technique

I have taken to making a ton of food all at once and then eating off of leftovers for the rest of the week. I am so torn about that technique because I don’t like eating things for a long time but I love not having to cook and spend a lot of time preparing things when I am busy during the week.

This past week I had leftover tomato soup and quite a big of couscous. So, I decided to put the couscous in the soup and add some hot sauce, garlic, and edamamme. It turned out quite well and now I have three individual servings of it in my freezer! I have also been eating my feta, chicken, lima bean, noodle salad this week. I am about ready to be done with that one! I also finished my beef stroganoff this week (which was pretty salty to begin with) by adding some raw tomatoes and cooked carrots to dilute the salt. I have become pretty good in doctoring up leftovers to make them taste differently than the original meal! That is the only way to eat leftovers!

Weekend Food!

>It is only Saturday night and I have a lot of food to talk about!

Last night I went to dinner with a friend. We went to Flattop Grill! I absolutely love Flattop…being able to make your own stir fry but not have to cook it is the best thing! I had always thought that people made their Flattop dinners just like mine. I put in a little bit of noodles and a ton of vegetables. However, last night the friend I went with and quite a few people around us made a sort of lo mein (mostly noodles and a small amount of vegetables). I am not sure I would ever make my Flattop dinner like this but it was interesting to realize that everyone personalizes their Flattop experience very differently! Also, if you have ever been to Flattop I have two tidbits of information: 1) don’t put rice in your stir fry bowl because they will bring it to the table for free and 2) you can get more of the really good flat bread for free if you just ask!

After dinner I went grocery shopping and because of that I got to cook this afternoon! One of my favorite cold salads is a combination of my aunt’s recipe and some of my changes. The way she made the feta salad was with noodles, spinach, feta cheese, chicken and balsamic dressing. I am not a fan of spinach but loved the idea of the salad so I changed the spinach to lima beans and started making it with whole wheat noodles! I love making it because all you have to do is boil noodles, thaw a package of lima beans, crumble some feta cheese (I use a really great feta from my hometown dairy!), and cook some chicken breasts! After all of that is done is put it in a bowl and pour the balsamic salad dressing on it. It usually lasts me a week of lunches which is so great because I don’t have to worry about making something in the morning!

For tonight’s dinner I really wanted something warm because it is freezing in my apartment today and I wanted tomato soup because I just bought a loaf of pepper asiago cheese bread and thought it would be good with tomato soup. But Friday night I made a box of plain whole wheat couscous and it tasted like cardboard (I normally make the kind with a flavor packet – Garlic and Olive Oil is the best!). I didn’t want to throw it away but I knew I couldn’t just eat it with a chicken breast because of the way it tasted. So I decided to make some tomato soup, poor the couscous in it and then I had half the bag of lima beans left so i threw them in! It started turning out pretty good but it was lacking flavor. I poured in a bunch of hot sauce, some chili power, some garlic powder and pepper. Once it was heated I grated so Jarlsberg cheese on top and it was great! I love making dinner out of a couple random ingredients, a bunch of spices, and a great topper (the cheese)!